Polish minority member in Belarus detained

A board member of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) was detained by the Belarusian authorities on Thursday morning, the day after the organisation’s leader, Andżelika Borys, was sentenced to 15 days in jail.

"This morning, Andrzej Poczobut... was detained in Grodno; a righteous and principled man, who has been fighting for the rights of Poles in Belarus for many years and has been repeatedly repressed by the Lukashenko regime," the head of the Polish Prime Minister's Office, Michal Dworczyk, wrote on Twitter.

The European Commission (EC) called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release Borys and Poczobut and said "We are seeing a further escalation of repression against the Belarusian people, including orchestrated campaigns of the persecution of human rights defenders, opposition and journalists.

Searches were conducted in the apartments of Andrzej Poczobut and Maria Tiszkowska, the president of the ZPB branch in Vawkavysk.

"The officers entered the apartment themselves... A warrant had been drawn up and they took him (my husband) away, but they did not say where," Poczobut's wife Oksana told PAP. She also added that "they did not want to wait for a lawyer."

On Wednesday, a Belarusian court sentenced ZPB leader Andżelika Borys to 15 days in jail for violating a law on mass gatherings by organising an annual fair traditionally held in the city. Polish authorities banned the judge who sentenced her from entering Poland.

Seated in Grodno, a city with a large Polish population, the ZPB is the biggest Polish diaspora organisation in Belarus. In 2005, the union was outlawed by the Belarusian authorities but has continued its activities despite the ban.

Political demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko and new, fair elections, have been taking place in Belarus since August 9, 2020.