In Minsk, a meeting between Novaya Gazeta special correspondent Irina Khalip and her husband, former Belarusian presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, has been cancelled.
Irina obtained permission for the meeting on Tuesday, a day after being released from jail (as reported, Irina Khalip has been sentenced to two years in prison with a suspended sentence for another two years for “participation in group activities which blatantly violated public order”). She was supposed to see her husband, who was sentenced to five years in a maximum security colony, on Wednesday at the Belarusian KGB detention centre.
As could be expected, the KGB detention centre officials took away Irina’s authorisation for the meeting as well as her passport and detained her for several hours, after which they stated that Andrei Sannikov wasn’t even at the detention centre. They refused to say where he was, although they suggested that he might have been taken to the detention centre on Volodarskaya Street. Irina got confirmation that he was indeed at the other detention centre, but she was not allowed to see him.
Amnesty International has already expressed concern over this matter. The human rights organisation said there is a chance that Andrei Sannikov was tortured and this is why his wife has not been permitted to see him. As reported, the former presidential candidate stated openly in court that he had been tortured at the KGB detention centre and that KGB Chairman Vadim Zaitsev had personally tried to intimidate Sannikov by threatening the lives and health of his wife and son.
Irina Khalip has not ruled out the possibility of torture, either. She has no news concerning her husband. The last letter from Andrei Sannikov came on Monday. In that letter, he didn’t mention the prison sentence, but wrote that “a new, unclear phase” had begun for him and thanked everyone who came to support him in court.
Sannikov will remain in the detention centre until the results of an appeal of his sentence become known. His lawyers are currently putting the appeal together. Irina Khalip is also planning to appeal her sentence.
Yesterday, Irina once again received authorisation for the meeting, which is to take place today. If everything goes according to plan, it will be Irina’s first meeting with her husband in the last five months, since 19 December 2010.
Sentences to be handed down today
to presidential candidates
Neklyaev, Rymashevsky, Uss, Statkevich
and nine other Belarusian political prisoners
Sentences are to be announced this afternoon in cases involving another thirteen political prisoners, which are being heard in Minsk courts.
So far, the court rulings have almost always coincided with the recommendations of the public prosecutors. And their rulings, as is to be expected, have been quite harsh.
For former presidential candidates Nikolai Statkevich and Dmitry Uss, the prosecutor called for sentences of eight and seven years in prison. The prosecutor argued that the accused were the perpetrators and leaders of mass riots, which led to arson, destruction of property and “personal violence” and that they also resisted arrest.
For four ordinary rally participants (Alexander Kvyatkevich, Dmitry Bulanov, Andrei Poznyak and Artem Gribkov), the public prosecutor called for four-year sentences in maximum security colony. For Alexander Klaskovsky, a former police lieutenant who tried to prevent a clash between the OMON riot police and protestors, the recommendation was 8.5 years.
Participants in another trial will likely receive a slightly less severe punishment: yesterday the prosecutor requested a three-year prison sentence with two years suspended for Vladimir Neklyaev and a two-year suspended sentence for Vitaly Rymashevsky (both former presidential candidates). Andrei Dmitryev, the director of Neklyaev’s election headquarters, faces a three-year suspended sentence, while his agents, Alexander Feduta and Sergei Voznyak, face two-year suspended sentences and activist Anastasia Polozhanko faces an 18-month suspended sentence.
At present, 28 people have been convicted for their participation in protests following presidential elections on 19 December. The most severe sentence was handed down to Andrei Sannikov. There have been no acquittals.