Exclusive: Belarusian journalist released from detention

Although I am currently free, I can be arrested any time under the provisions of the Belarusian criminal code, because I remain in the circle of suspicion, said Aleh Hruzdzilovich, the correspondent of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who has just been released from jail by Minsk authorities.

The journalist spoke to Poland IN’s journalist Jonasz Rewiński over the phone, because all of his professional and personal equipment was confiscated by the police for an indeterminate period.

Click here to watch the full interview.

Mr Hruzdzilovich and Ina Studzinskaya, another journalist of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Belarus Service, have been released from jail after spending 10 days in custody as a part of the crackdown on the Belarusian independent media and civil society by the authoritarian Minsk regime. They were released on July 26, but were told they remain suspects “in an unspecified criminal case.”

Ms Studzinskaya had been on a hunger strike for nine days and Mr Hruzdzilovich for three days to protest against their arrest before they were finally released. These two journalists were arrested along with other independent journalists on July 16 after police and security forces searched their apartments and offices.

The longer the prisoners were kept in custody, the worse their living conditions were. Pillows were taken from them and they had to endure sleeping on… plastic bottles for water.

Just like many other Minsk-independent journalists, Aleh Hruzdzilovich is suspected of committing the offence contained in art. 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus, that is, “taking part in illegal mass demonstrations”. The guest of Poland In pointed out that it is also known as “the popular codex”, because currently many people are accused of “crimes” mentioned in that article.

In recent weeks, the Belarusian authorities have conducted dozens of searches in non-state media and social organisations, and some activists and journalists have been detained, including staff from the editorial offices of Nasha Niva, Belsat TV, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Svaboda. On Tuesday, the Belarusian Interior Ministry announced that the website of the Minsk-independent TV broadcaster Belsat and its social networks had been recognised as “extremist.”