Early in the morning of February 16th the press secretary of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Barys Haretski sent out the message that the security forces had come for him. Later, they also came to the BAJ’s lawyer Aleh Aheyeu and the chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrei Bastunets who was taken to witness the search in the office. In addition, searches of journalists and human rights activists in different cities are also being carried out. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet been able to provide a substantial comment.
“Andrei Bastunets is being taken away by the police officers of the Minsk city executive committee. At least that's how they introduced themselves. The house is not searched, but Bastunets is taken away, as the search will be carried out in the BAJ office. The police behave politely and urge not to worry, ” Sabina Brylo, the wife of Bastunets, said. She does not know the reason for the search in BAJ’s office. The police officers allegedly said that they would show all the necessary papers “when the time comes”. It was not possible to contact Haretski and Aheyeu: Haretski's phone is still working, Aheyeu’s is not.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists is a Belarusian non-governmental public organization. It unites citizens engaged in professional journalistic activity or contributing to its development. Founded in 1995, it underwent state re-registration in 2006. BAJ advocates for the rights of journalists and defends principles of free and professional journalism.
Searches in the flats of journalists and human rights defenders
As reported by the non-registered Viasna human rights center, on the morning of February 16, riot police officers came to the house of the Homiel freelance journalist Larisa Shchyrakova . She is being searched as part of a criminal case under Art. 362 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (murder of an employee of the internal affairs bodies). Another Homiel journalist, Anatoly Gotovchits, is also being searched.
The searches were conducted at the members of the Mahilou branch of "Viasna" Aliaksei Kolchyn and Barys Buhel and Mahilou journalist Ales Burakou Jr.
In addition, searches were carried out at the offices of the heads of the Mazyr and Svetlahorsk branches of the HRC “Viasna” Uladzimir Tseliapun and Alena Maslyukova.
The search was carried out at the office of the coordinator of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty" Andrei Paluda . His phone is off.
“We will post all the information on our departmental resources, but for now we are working with this information,” Volha Chamadanava, an official spokeswoman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said.
Upd Search is under way at the apartment where the press secretary of Barys Zvozkau Belarusian Human Rights House Yauhenia Parashchanka is present with her young son.
The Investigative Committee comments:
The Investigative Committee continues to investigate the criminal case under Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (Organization and preparation of actions that seriously violate public order, or active participation in them).
As part of the preliminary investigation to establish the circumstances of funding the protest, the investigation bodies initiated searches of organizations that position themselves as human rights groups.
Procedural actions are carried out by the officers of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (aka GUBOPiK, or GUBAZiK) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and authorized by the Prosecutor General's Office. The final legal assessment of the situation will follow the completion of all procedural actions.