President rallies for imprisoned Belarusian-Polish activist

Gian Ehrenzeller/PAP/EPA

Poland has not ceased its demands for the release of Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarusian-Polish journalist and Polish minority activist imprisoned by the Belarusian regime, the Polish president told reporters on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"We are consistently demanding the release of Andrzej Poczobut, whose imprisonment is absolutely illegal," Andrzej Duda said.

Duda's words came a day after the start of Poczobut's trial before a district court in Grodno, Belarus, on charges of "instigating hatred on religious and national grounds and rehabilitating Nazism."

Duda said Poland's strivings for Poczobut's release could be impeded by the fact that he is now standing trial, and by Poland's and Belarus's opposite allegiances in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, in which Poland supports Ukraine and Belarus Russia.

"We are fighting for it (Poczobut's release - PAP), but as we can see, the Belarusian regime is unfortunately using him as a sort of trump card... The (Belarusian - PAP) regime is on Russia's side in the conflict with Ukraine... we are staunchly on Ukraine's side, so that makes us opponents in a way, which certainly doesn't make the situation any better," Duda said adding that "(that - PAP) imprisonment is absolutely illegal, this is an example of authoritarianism and terrors on the part of the Belarusian regime".

Poczobut, a well-known journalist in Belarus and a long-time correspondent for Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, is also an activist for the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), a Polish minority body that has been delegalised by the Belarusian authorities.

Poczobut was arrested on March 25, 2021, and has remained in a Belarusian prison since then.

Arrested on the same day were ZPB leader Andzelika Borys and several other members of the organisation. Borys was released in March, 2022, but may still face charges.

The imprisonment of Poczobut and the remaining ZPB members triggered vigorous protests from human rights organisations and the international community, including the Polish government, which said the arrests were politically motivated.