« It is not right that in the 21st century, people who are suspects, and may still be acquitted are kept in such conditions. » - Syargei Vaznyak, after his release on bail.
Belarusian activists and journalists, among them five presidential candidates, were arrested and charged for their participation on 19 December in Minsk, in a demonstration to protest against vote rigging after the Presidential election. According to the publicized results, Alyaksandr Lukashenka won the election with just under 80% of the vote.
Several of those arrested can be considered to be prisoners of conscience, held solely for expressing without violence their political views, and are awaiting trial on fabricated charges. They do not have adequate access to lawyers and doctors, even though some of them were seriously injured by riot police on the day of the demonstration.
Vladimir Neklyaev, a presidential candidate, sustained head injuries at the hands of law enforcement officers as he made his way to the demonstration. He was then dragged from the intensive care department of a hospital by police officers.
Andrei Sannikov, a prominent Belarusian activist, who formerly worked as Editor of Charter 97, an independent news website, and an opposition presidential candidate, was tortured in custody. His lawyer reported that his legs appeared to be broken and that the way he spoke and held himself indicated that he may have brain damage. Andrei Sannikov is in urgent need of specialized medical attention to avoid irreversible consequences.
His wife, journalist Irina Khalip, who was with him when he was arrested, reported the event live on air to a Russian radio station. She was punched in the face before being arrested too. She was finally able, at the end of January, to return home to her son Danil and her parents.
Irina Khalip and Vladimir Neklyaev, who also left the prison, are currently placed under house arrest in conditions equivalent to imprisonment. At least 14 prisoners of conscience remain in detention and at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.