664 days behind bars: The trial of Andrzej Poczobut starts in Hrodna

16.01.2023 Source: Служба маніторынгу Беларускай асацыяцыі журналістаў

Today, January 16, Hrodna Regional Court will start considering the case of Andrzej Poczobut, a prominent journalist and activist of the Polish minority in Belarus. The journalist has been in custody for 664 days. According to the indictment, he faces 12 years in jail. Judge Dzmitry Bubenchyk, known for convicting other politicals, will hear the case.

On 25 March 2021, Andrzej Poczobut’s home was searched and the journalist was arrested in the so-called “Polish case.” Of the five defendants, Andrzej is the only one remaining behind bars. He is accused of “inciting national hatred” and “rehabilitating Nazism.” The first accusation is related to his article about the Soviet attack on Poland in September 1939, which he called an act of aggression.

The case file includes the journalist’s statements in defense of the Polish minority in Belarus, an article in the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza about the suppression of the Belarusian protests in 2020, and a text in Magazyn Polski dated 2006 focused on a commander of the Polish anti-communist underground in Hrodna. The journalist faces up to 12 years of imprisonment for this crime. He is also accused of encouraging sanctions against Belarus.

Poczobut was offered a release on condition that he leaves Belarus and writes a petition for pardon to Lukashenka, but the journalist refused.

In October 2022, the KGB put Andrzej Poczobut on the list of terrorists. Belarusian human rights community, the Polish authorities, and international organizations have recognized criminal cases against members of the Polish minority, including Andrzej Poczobut, as “politically motivated,” referring to the repression of civil society in Belarus and civil liberties.

“I think about those who stayed in these walls in the 40s and 50s awaiting trial. It was more difficult for them, it was a living hell back then. Their example gives me strength. We don’t choose the time we live in, we choose how we live that time. I have never imagined that my present would suddenly become so dangerous, but reality always surprises me. That’s its richness,” Andrzej Poczobut wrote in a letter.

In 2011, Andrzej Poczobut became a political prisoner for the first time. He was charged with insulting and libeling the president. The journalist received a three-year prison sentence suspended for two years under the libel charges and was acquitted under the insult accusations. He was released in the courtroom.