Polish activists in Belarus charged with incitement to hatred


The president of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), Andżelika Borys, and the head of the local branch office in the western city of Lida, Irena Biernacka, were charged in Minsk on Friday with "incitement to hatred," the Znadniemna.pl portal has announced.

On Thursday, charges were brought against other members of the ZPB leadership, Andrzej Poczobut and Maria Tiszkowska. On Wednesday, the same charges were brought against another Polish activist from Brest, western Belarus, Anna Paniszewa.

The five ZPB activists face criminal proceedings under the Belarusian penal code for "deliberate activities aimed at inciting enmity on racial, nationalistic, religious or other social grounds."

The case concerns activities that were "accompanied by violence" or performed by people holding office. The law being enforced regards the aforementioned activities carried out by a group of people or leading to unintentional death or other serious consequences.

The Belarusian prosecutor interprets the ZPB leaders’ activities as "rehabilitating Nazism," an offence that carries a jail term of up to 12 years.

All of them were recognised by human rights advocates on Wednesday as political prisoners. There are a total of 323 such prisoners currently in Belarus and their number is constantly growing due to repressions following protests against presidential elections last year opponents of which claim was rigged.

The ZPB is the biggest Polish-minority organisation in Belarus. In 2005, the authorities in Minsk revoked its registration. The union's statutory activities include nurturing Polishness and Polish culture, teaching the language and maintaining memorial sites.