Islanders urged to express support for Belarus activist

ISLANDERS are being urged by a local charity to write letters of support to a ‘brave’ high-profile activist in Belarus who has been arrested following mass civil unrest and reports of human rights abuses in the country.

Belarus Protests (29067351)
Belarus Protests (29067351)

The eastern European nation, which is wedged between Russia and Poland, has been in a state of turmoil for over a month with hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to the streets following what they feel was a rigged national election on 9 August.

Long-serving president Alexander Lukashenko claimed an overwhelming victory in the heavily disputed poll, and unrest has since grown with the government cracking down severely on protesters.

Belarus Protests (29034047)

Reports from the country have indicated human rights abuses, including torture and murder of dissidents, are taking place.

Amnesty International Jersey is encouraging Islanders to show their support for the protesters by writing to lead activist Maria Kolesnikova, who was recently arrested and detained on the charge of attempting to undermine national security, and her lawyer, Ilya Saley.

Maria Kolesnikova (29168050)

The charity’s chairman Peter Colback said that he had already written a letter to her and would like others to follow suit.

‘Most people probably couldn’t find Belarus on a map but it is on our doorstep, really, in eastern Europe and I feel very strongly about this,’ he said.

‘This woman, Maria Kolesnikova, is incredibly brave. She has been detained in Belarus and tore up her own passport to stop herself from being deported to Ukraine.

‘She is going to stay in her own country and faces those risks but, because she is now a well-known figure internationally, everyone will be paying attention to how she is treated.’

He added: ‘We want people to send letters to show their support for her. Sending a handwritten letter has so much more impact than sending an email. When you write a letter to someone, it really makes you empathise with their situation.’

Peter Colback.Picture: PETER MOURANT. (29217325)

Amnesty International would like to hear from anyone who wishes to write letters to Maria and Ilya and will provide templates for those who do.

More information about the charity, including contact details, can be found at amnesty.org.je.

Commenting on the Belarus situation, a Government of Jersey spokesperson said: ‘The Government of Jersey supports British foreign policy in giving priority to the protection and promotion of human rights.’

lThe postal addresses of Maria Kolesnikova and her lawyer, Ilya Saley, are: Maria Kolesnikova, SIZO No1, Volodarskogo str 2, Minsk, 220050, Belarus and Ilya Saley, IVS, Okrestina str 36A, Minsk, 220089, Belarus.

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