ADF calls for release of Christian leaders in Belarus imprisoned for peaceful speech

Co-chairs of Christian Democrat Party arrested, sentenced to prison for expressing views after election
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

ADF attorney sound bite (5/25/11):  Roger Kiska

MINSK, Belarus — The Alliance Defense Fund is calling for the immediate release of the co-chairs of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party in Belarus who were arrested and imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views following a December 2010 national election. One of the men was a candidate for president in the election and was sentenced Friday.

ADF sent letters that day to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek asking for their support in the release of Pavel Sieviarynets and Vital Rymasheuski. Rymasheuski, who ran for president, received a suspended sentence of two years in prison. Sieviarynets was sentenced in December to three years at a hard labor camp.

“Christians shouldn’t be punished simply for expressing their views. The free expression of ideas is a basic human right that is protected by both Belarusian and European law,” said ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska. “These two men were groundlessly arrested, denied their rights, and sentenced to prison because of their views. They broke no laws and have only peacefully expressed themselves.”

The ADF letters explain that Sieviarynets was kept in the KGB prison in Minsk following his arrest. While imprisoned, he asked to meet with an Orthodox priest 10 times and each time had his request refused.

Rymasheuski had the charges against him changed at the last minute and without any explanation. He was then interrogated without being told that the charges against him had changed.

“These two men have actively devoted their political careers for the pursuit of religious freedom in Belarus and have been champions of democracy…,” the ADF letters state. “Both men are friends and allies in religious liberty with the Alliance Defense Fund, and we are shocked and disturbed at the harshness of the sentences and the lack of rule of law or transparency.” 
  • Pronunciation guide: Sieviarynets (Seh-VAR’-ih-nets), Rymasheuski (Ry-muh-SHUH’-skee)
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.