On Monday Andrei Aliaksandrau (pictured right) and Irina Zlobina, our friends in Belarus, will finally have their day in court, 511 days after they were detained by Lukashenka’s police.
It may, however, be a little misguided to believe that this will be a free and fair trial. There will be no media present. This will be a closed hearing. Their Belarussian lawyers have had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and are prohibited from speaking publicly about the trial. There will be no genuine trial, evidence taken or appeal process.
Andrei and his girlfriend Irina have been charged with treason. Their ‘crime’ was paying the fines of some of the protesters who were arrested after Lukashenka’s sham election. They weren’t even present at the demonstrations. Their potential sentence will be 15 years in a jail cell.
This travesty of justice isn’t occurring in some dim and distant land, but rather only 1,400 miles from where I currently sit.
Andrei and Irina are our friends. Andrei used to work for Index on Censorship – and if all was well, he would now be guiding our work on Ukraine and Russia, ensuring that we were providing a voice for the persecuted. Instead, he is sitting in a jail cell, with 1,214 other political prisoners waiting to learn of his fate. To learn of his partner’s fate. He may be silenced but we are not. So, we have to be his voice.
Today and every day – we are Andrei. We are Irina.
On Monday we will be dedicating our social media to them and their story. Shining a spotlight on the ongoing repressive of Lukashenka’s regime and the effect it is having on our friends, colleagues and those who bravery inspires our work every day.
All we ask of you is a little time and some help – read Andrei and Irina’s testimony on Monday. Read the words of their friends who are scared and share their stories. Because there but for the grace of god go all of us.