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In Belarus, Jailed for Protecting Loved Ones

In Belarus, Jailed for Protecting Loved Ones

Last week, a court in Brest, Belarus sentenced Daria Losik to two years in prison for an interview she gave about her incarcerated husband, Ihar Losik, to independent broadcaster Belsat, which Belarusian authorities have labeled extremist.

The court found that by calling her husband a political prisoner and criticizing authorities in the interview, Daria “aided extremist activity,” presenting “grave danger to the public.” Her sentencing now leaves the Losiks’ 4-year-old daughter in the care of her grandparents. Ihar Losik, who ran a popular Telegram channel and worked as a Radio Free Europe consultant, is serving 15 years in prison on politically motivated charges of “organizing mass riots” and “inciting hatred.” After his sentencing in December 2021, authorities listed Ihar as a person “involved in terrorist activity.” Throughout his pretrial detention, prison officials subjected him to ill-treatment, restricted contact with his family, and prohibited exercise. Ihar survived two hunger strikes and a suicide attempt. Last summer, authorities seized some of the Losiks’ property, including their television and Daria’s piano. Since authorities detained Ihar in June 2020, Daria’s life has revolved around delivering him food, hygiene products, and clothes, hundreds of kilometers away from home. She publicly advocated for Ihar and spoke out on his ill-treatment in detention. If not Daria, he once told her, no one else could stand up for him. As Belarusian lawyers are increasingly prosecuted and disbarred for representing victims of politically motivated prosecutions, family members are often forced to become public advocates. Due to censorship and restrictions around correspondence, in practice they also become the only link between their loved ones behind bars and the outside world. Authorities retaliate against family members through arbitrary searches, detentions, interrogations, and other harassment. Earlier this month, authorities arrested Vadim Zheromsky, the husband of another political prisoner, Marfa Rabkova, for the second time on Marfa’s birthday. Before her sentencing, Daria Losik reported being followed by law enforcement and discovered that her car was wiretapped. During her trial, Daria emphasized that her whole family, including her daughter, was being punished along with her. Her sentencing sends a chilling signal to other political prisoners’ family members.

These lawless repressive tactics need to stop.

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