Jailed Union of Poles leader agrees to leave for Poland, but Belarusian authorities slow down
Andżelika Borys, president of the Union of Poles in Belarus, has given her consent to leave Belarus. Since being taken into custody, her condition has worsened, Belsat TV director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy said on Facebook, referring to her own sources.
According to Romaszewska-Guzy, Andżelika Borys’ health deteriorated considerably behind bars; the woman experiences dental problems as well as a recurrence of chronic diseases. The leader of the Union of Poles has reportedly agreed to visit Poland, but Belarusian authorities put the process on hold, trying to use it to pressure his jailed associate, the journalist Andrzej Poczobut. They also want to force him to leave.
On Wednesday, the prison department responded to the Belarusian Association of Journalists’ investigation into Poczobut’s state of health. As previously reported, the reporter contracted COVID-19 and had heart problems. The letter said “the department is ignoring the appeal” because patient health information is tied to medical confidentiality.
Andrzej Poczobut’s wife Aksana suggests that the political prisoner was deprived of necessary drugs behind bars. Andrzej asked to give him some medicine; on May 27, the defense lawyer took them to the pre-trial detention center. However, on May 31, the man resubmitted his request, meaning he barely received them. Aksana worries about Andrzej because the heartbeat was bad, so medication was vital.
Andżelika Borys and Andrzej Poczobut are two of the five representatives of the Polish minority arrested; the Belarusian security services arrested them in connection with the so-called Polish affair. On June 2, the Polish Foreign Ministry said that three activists from the Polish minority in Belarus – Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska and Anna paniszewa – arrived in Poland on May 25 “thanks to the efforts of the Polish diplomatic and consular services”. According to our information, the Belarusian authorities have returned the three women to the country impossible by imposing travel restrictions on them before taking those arrested at the Belarusian-Polish border.
Shortly before the arrival, Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy was informed that Poczobut and Borys had been offered to be released and deported from the country, but they refused.
This spring, the Belarusian prosecutor’s office opened criminal proceedings against Andżelika Borys, president of the Union of Poles in Belarus, and other members of the organization.
They are taxed under art. 130-3 of the Penal Code (“deliberate acts aimed at inciting national and religious hatred according to national, religious, linguistic or other social affiliation, as well as by justifying Nazism, committed by a group of people”). According to them, the recent activity of Polish militants, that is to say the holding of certain events, is relevant for “the rehabilitation of Nazism and the justification of the genocide of the Belarusian people”.
On March 25, the homes of some members of the Union of Poles in Belarus were searched in connection with the criminal case. Belarusian security officers paid unexpected visits to Andrzej Poczobut, a media worker based in Hrodna (he was later arrested and taken to Minsk for questioning); Maria Tiszkowska, director of the UPB public school in Vaukavysk; Irena Biernacka, head of the Lida branch of the Union. The police also came to the Polish public school and to the headquarters of the Union of Poles in Hrodna. The search of the office lasted eight hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Poczobut, Biernacka, Tiszkowska, Borys were taken into police custody.
On March 12, Anna Paniszewa, headmistress of the Polish school, was arrested on her way to Belarus from Poland. Shortly before detention, Paniszewa posted a call to the public; she thinks that the the authorities fabricatee charges, aimed at the liquidation of the school.