Latest from Belarus

09/11/2006

Please find below unedited texts of news items as we received from Belarus:

Received Wednesday 21:35

Gomel, 08 November 2006: Today, at 8:20 pm the special police forces broke into the apartment where the meeting of Organizing Committee of the International LGBT Conference took place and arrested seven people:

Vyacheslav Andreev, Sviatlana Bortnik, Svyatoslav Sementsov, Tanya Ivanova, Aleksei Filipenko, Natallia Kavalchuk, and Viachaslau Bortnik. The Conference materials have been seized. Activists have been brought to the Zheleznodorozhnyi Borrow Police Department and interrogated. Police officers asked for detailed information on the program of the conference, list of participants, and venue of the conference. International guests were of the special interest of police. Four of activists have been released after tow hours of detention.

According to our information at 10:25 pm, Vyacheslav Andreev, Svyatoslav Sementsov and Viachaslau Bortnik of Organizing Committee remain to stay at the police station. Two activists who are taking duty near the entrance to the Zheleznodorozhnyi Borrow Police Department confirmed that they haven't left the building and their cell phones are switched off.

We're following the situation and will keep you posted.

On behalf of Organizing Committee of the International LGBT Conference in Minsk,

Tanya Ivanova

Co-president of TEMA - information center loveforever@tut.by

Received Thursday 16:48

Gomel, 09 November 2006: Today, at 17:30 Vyacheslav Andreev, Svyatoslav Sementsov and Viachaslau Bortnik were released after 22 hours of detention.

Yesterday, at 8:20 pm the special police forces broke into the apartment where the meeting of Organizing Committee of the International LGBT Conference took place and arrested seven people. The Conference materials have been seized. Activists have been brought to the Zheleznodorozhnyi Borrow Police Department and interrogated. Four of activists have been released esterday after two hours of detention.

Please note that Sviatlana Bortnik hasn't ever been arrested as it was mentioned in very first argent alert. Please accept our apology for mistake.

The correct name of the activist is Sviatlana Siarheichyk.

As activists said, Police officers asked for detailed information on the program of the conference, list of participants, and venue of the conference. International guests were of the special interest of police.

Police check their cell phones and contacts in address book.

According to our information, Vyacheslav Andreev and Svyatoslav Sementsov are in Gomel now. Viachaslau Bortnik went to Minsk. They'll write more about last two days soon.

The Organizing Committee decided to postpone the International LGBT Conference in Minsk because of sedurity reasons and threat of personal safety of the participants.

Thanks to everybody for prompt reaction. We've got tons of e-mails of support from all over the world! We ask you to stop sending appeals regarding this case.

On behalf of Organizing Committee of the International LGBT Conference in Minsk,

Tanya Ivanova

Co-president of TEMA - information center loveforever@tut.by

Received Monday 12:29

Minsk, 12 November 2006: The Organizing Committee of the International Conference on LGBT Culture and Human Rights was forced to cancel the event when its seven members have been detained in Gomel on 8 November 2006.

Police broke into the apartment where the meeting of the Organizing Committee took place and arrested those who where there. The Conference materials have been seized and activists were brought to the Zheleznodorozhnyi Borrow Police Department.

"They interrogated us in the night and four of my colleagues have been released after two hours. Together with two other Slavas I spent the whole night behind the bars. It was cold in the police station and I was refused to call my consulate as well as I'm Russian citizen. But we didn't experience violence or gay-bushing from police officers," Svyatoslav Sementsov said.

Belarusian LGBT activists have been released on 9 November without any criminal charges. The Organizing Committee kindly appreciates dozens of immediate responses received from all over the world just few hours after detention of Belarusian LGBT activists.

"Despite the fact that our partner organization withdrew the agreement to provide conference space and many participants including foreign diplomats refused to come we felt international support and solidarity. Warmest thanks to OSCE/ODIHR, Amnesty International, ILGA-Europe, UNDP-Belarus, ILGCN, Tupilak (Sweden), Rainbow Foundation (Russia), Human Rights Watch, InterPride, European Parliament members, Interkulturelles Zentrum, Stonewall, OutRage and many others who sent e-mails and faxes," Sementsov added.

Despite critical circumstances few foreign guests came to Minsk to support Belarusian LGBT activists and to discuss plans for the future. On 11 November a small international delegation brought flowers to the Trostsenets memorial - where more than 215 thousand people have been exterminated by Nazi forces in 1941-1944.

"Authorities shouldn't think that we are given up. Together with our Belarusian brothers and sisters we will continue to organize meetings, conferences and cultural events here and abroad," said Bill Schiller of International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network who managed to come to Minsk with support from Swedish Institute.

Although no criminal charges are filled against released activists the vague wording of the amendments of the Criminal Code adopted on 15 December 2005 (Law N 71-Z) provides wide discretionary powers to the authorities allowing them to label activities of LGBT groups as illegal attempts to discredit or harm the Belarusian state. Criminal persecution could be implied for the coordination of activities by an association or a foundation which has been suspended or liquidated (Article 193). Bearing in mind that none of Belarusian LGBT groups has legal status anyone who organizes such activities may face a fine and six months imprisonment, and in vaguely defined "serious cases" can be subjected to a "restriction of freedom" for up to two years.

We are following the situation and will keep you posted.

Tanya Ivanova

co-president of TEMA - information center loveforever@tut.by

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