Trial of Polish activist starts in Belarus

The trial of Belarusian-Polish journalist and Polish minority activist Andrzej Poczobut, imprisoned by the Belarusian regime, began before the district court in Grodno on Monday, the Polish foreign ministry has said.

"Poland has been waiting for the release of Andrzej Poczobut," Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk said, adding that Poczobut had committed no crime.

"He has been imprisoned only because he is a journalist and a Polish diaspora activist," Wawrzyk said.

"The Belarusian authorities have been trying to make Poland their main enemy, speaking about Poland's alleged territorial claims, aggressive plans and actions towards Belarus," Warzyk continued.

According to the deputy minister, all the charges against Poczobut are completely groundless. "He should be immediately released if his trial is to be fair," he said. 

Wawrzyk also said that Poland's authorities had been doing their best to have Poczobut released from prison but admitted that Belarus was a country which was very difficult to hold normal talks with. 

Lukasz Jasina, the foreign ministry spokesman, wrote on social media that the Polish charge d'affair in Minsk, Marcin Wojciechowski, was barred from entering the courtroom. 

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, on charges of "instigating hatred on religious and national grounds," and "rehabilitating Nazism," 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.

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