Student case, Belarus

Posted November 20, 2022

Concerns about a fraudulent re-election of Lukashenko on August 9, 2020, triggered mass demonstrations across the country, with many of the protests organized by students. Authorities responded to peaceful protests with arrests and violent force. According to the Belarusian Students Association (BSA), nearly 500 students have been arrested.

One such case involves 11 students, including many members of the BSA, and one professor, who have been imprisoned since November 12, 2020, in apparent retaliation for their participation in the nationwide protests. Read more.

UPDATE: On November 30, 2022, After serving their prison sentences, the 11 students and one professor were released. SAR welcomes their release, and we are grateful to everyone—members, Student Advocacy Seminars, Academic Freedom Legal Clinics, and the global higher education community—who helped SAR advocate for the students and professor represented in the “student case.” Join SAR in helping imprisoned scholars by taking action through SAR’s Scholars in Prison Project.

 Case Information

On November 12, 2020, the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus (KBG) conducted a series of house raids and arrested 11 students from various universities, including members of the BSA, and one professor in connection with the protests. The individuals include Alana Gebremariam, a member of BSA’s coordinating council and opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s representative for youth and student affairs; Belarusian State University students Ksenia Syramalot, who is also BSA’s press secretary, Illia Trakhtenberg, Tanya Yakelchyk, also a member of BSA, and Yahor Kanetski, also a member of BSA and the Free Trade Union; Belarusian National Technical University students Nastya Bulybenka and Vika Hrankouskaya; Belarusian State Pedagogical University students and BSA members Kasia Budzko and Yana Arabeika; Belarusian State Academy of Arts student Masha Kalenik; Minsk State Linguistic University student Hleb Fitzner; and Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics Professor Volha Filatchankava. The KGB first held the students and professor at a KGB pre-trial detention facility before transferring them to pre-trial detention facility No. 1 in Minsk.

On May 14, 2021, the students and professor were charged with “organizing and preparing in group actions that grossly violate public order” (Criminal Code Article 342(1)). On July 16, 2021, the students and professor were sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment, with the exception of Mr. Flitzner, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Ms. Gebremariam, Ms. Syramalot, Ms. Yakelchyk, Ms. Bulybenka, Ms. Hrankouskaya, Ms. Budzko, Ms. Arabeika, Ms. Kalenik, and Professor Filatchankava are serving their sentence at penal colony No. 4, Gomel; while Mr. Kanetski is in penal colony No. 3, Vitba; Mr. Trakhtenberg is in penal colony No. 15, Mahilow; and Mr. Fitzner is in penal colony No. 16, Shklow. While the students have access to family visits, prison authorities have reportedly barred any letters from being delivered to the students.

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