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Freedom House Welcomes Release of Belarusian Youth Movement Leader
Freedom House welcomes today's long overdue release of Zmitser Dashkevich, the leader of the unregistered Belarusian youth movement Malady Front (Young Front). We hope that he will remain free and that other political prisoners being held in Belarus will be released.
Dashkevich, 32, was sentenced to two years in prison in March 2011 on the charge of "especially malicious hooliganism" following a questionable arrest the day before a government crackdown on a peaceful protest on December 19, 2010. In 2012, Dashkevich was sentenced to an additional year in prison for what authorities called "systematic and aggressive refusal to follow instructions of the penitentiary administration." During his prison term, Dashkevich was regularly placed in solitary confinement and went on hunger strikes several times protesting the conditions of his imprisonment. Dashkevich will remain under so-called “preventative police supervision” for six months following his release.
While this release is positive news, ten other political prisoners, including ex-presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich and renowned human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, still remain behind bars in Belarus in appalling conditions while facing coercion and unfair treatment by authorities. Civic and political activists, including former political prisoners, are arrested and fined regularly on fabricated charges for speaking against the government. Just days ago, Dashkevich’s fellow Malady Front activist and former political prisoner, Uladzimir Yaromenak, was sentenced to three months in prison for alleged violation of his preventive supervision.
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