On August 9 Natallya Radzina, editor of charter97.org website, delivered a speech at the extraordinary meeting of the Lithuanian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Foreign Affairs Committee which unites members of all political parties of the Seimas, was called to discuss the situation with Vilnius’ move to share information about human rights defender Ales Byalyatski’s bank account with the Belarusian authorities. This caused the arrest of Ales Byalyatski, chairman of Vyasna human rights centre.
The session of the Committee started with the speech of charter97.org website editor Natallya Radzina, who had recently asked for political asylum in Lithuania because of persecution by the Belarusian authorities. Presenting the Belarusian journalist, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Seimas Emanuelis Zingeris gave her flowers and stated that Lithuania is glad to greet the chairman of charter97.org website on its land.
The journalist started her speech with her personal story, telling how she was arrested on December 19, 2010 alongside with presidential candidates, embers of their campaign headquarters and human rights activists. She spent 1.5 month in prison, two months in exile in Kobryn under the KGB supervision, and then she had to escape from Belarus.
Radzina underlined that like all other political prisoners and their families in Belarus, it was Vyasna human rights centre headed by Ales Byalyatski that helped her in Belarus. The journalist could not conceal her disappointment connected with disclosure of the human rights organisation’s bank details. As said by her, Lithuania had turned over fighters for democracy in Belarus.
“What has happened is a shameful fact indeed. I hope it was an unintended mistake. Those who have done that have placed in jeopardy families of political prisoners,” Radzina said, stressing that it was Vyasna who paid for services of lawyers during her arrest and who helped her parents so that they could bring parcels to the prison for her. Such assistance had been provided for 15 years of the organisation’s activities to all democratic activists cracked down on by Lukashenka’s regime.
As said by her, persecution of Byalyatski and Vyasna is a heavy blow for the families of political prisoners in Belarus, and they can be left without legal and financial aid now.
To the question what the KGB officials had been demanding from her when they interrogated her in prison, the journalist said that they were not interested by the December events, when many oppositionists were arrested, much. Most of all they wanted to find out who and how finances activities of the opposition and independent media. And it is deplorable that today it is found out with the help of the democratic Lithuania.
As said by the journalist, the Byalyatski’s incident is not the first one when the Belarusian nation becomes disappointed in Lithuania. The trust had been undermined when President Dalia Grybauskaitė broke Minsk’s international isolation and took part in bilateral meetings with Dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka. But disclosure of Vyasna accounts was the most powerful blow: some readers of charter97.org now fear for her and other political refugees’ safety in Lithuania.
“But I believe in the principles of freedom and democracy, like Andrei Sannikov, Zmitser Bandarenka, Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, Mikita Likhavid, Mikalai Statkevich, Fiodar Mirzayanau. Syarhei Kazakou, Zmitser Uss and many other Belarusians believe in them. They had been fighting for them and now they are put behind the bars. Please do not deprive us of this belief. The Lithuanian nation was fighting for their freedom a short time ago. Have you forgotten about that so quickly?” Radzina asked the deputies of the Lithuanian Seimas.
The members of the Foreign Affairs Committee offered apologies to Radzina for the actions of Lithuania. Lithuanian Justice Minister Remigijus Šimašius silently observed the conversation and the journalist who had applied by the political asylum.
At the session of the Committee the journalist has also told about the situation with political prisoners in Belarus, and about crackdown on journalists in Belarus: about the death of charter97.org website’s founder Aleh Byabenin (Oleg Bebenin), assassinations of Dzmitry Zavadski and Veranika Charkasava; about “Novaya Gazeta” journalist Iryna Khalip, who was released after trial but stays under supervision of power structures, and her situation amounts to a home arrest; about Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist of Gazeta Wyborzca (Poland), whose freedom is restricted for his critical articles about Lukashenka.
“Today every Belarusian who is undesirable for the authorities, can be arrested, abducted or murdered any time. And Europe continues to observe the terrorism passively, and just making declarative statements from time to time. The time of declarations is over. Zmitser Bandarenka, a political prisoner, has written in his letter from prison: “Europe is killing us by its greediness.” Instead of imposing tangible economic sanctions against Lukashenka’s regime, you are continuing to grant him loans, buy oil products and potassium fertilizers, thus supporting the repressive regime. A dialogue of Europe with the dictatorship in exchange for release of political prisoners must be out of the question. Prisoners of conscience must be released immediately and unconditionally. Lukashenka must come to the negotiating table with Andrei Sannikov, not with Dalia Grybauskaitė,” the journalist stressed.