HRODNA, Belarus — A Polish-Belarusian journalist charged with insulting Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been arrested in the western city of Hrodna, RFE/RL’s Belarus Service reports.
Andrzej Poczobut, the Belarus correspondent for the Polish daily “Gazeta Wyborcza,” was detained on April 6 and an order was issued for him to remain in custody for three days for planning to leave his home town illegally.
Poczobut was charged last month with insulting the personal dignity and honor of the president in newspaper articles and online comments.
Poczobut’s wife Aksana told journalists that Poczobut planned to go to Minsk today to take part in a televised conference on the situation in Belarus organized by the European Union and European Parliament representatives.
But on April 6, a policeman came to the Poczobuts’ apartment and ordered Poczobut to report to the police the next day. Poczobut informed the policeman both orally and in writing that he would not be able to do so as he planned to be in Minsk that day.
When Poczobut tried to leave Hrodna by car later on April 6, he was stopped by police and told to return home as he is not allowed to leave his home town while the investigation against him is under way. After Poczobut returned home, police came to his apartment again and arrested him.
A representative of the Hrodna regional prosecutor told Interfax today that an order had been issued for Poczobut to be held in detention for three days. A duty officer at the Hrodna pretrial detention center declined to comment to RFE/RL.
If found guilty of insulting Lukashenka, Poczobut, who is also a leading member of the embattled Polish cultural organization, the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), could face up to two years in jail.
The ZPB has been trying to regain official registration in Belarus for the past five years. In 2009, Belarusian officials registered the Union of Belarusian Poles, an alternative organization representing ethnic Poles in Belarus.
The Polish government regards the ZPB as the only legal representative of ethnic Poles in Belarus.
About 4 percent of Belarus’s 9.7 million population are ethnic Poles.
Read more in Belarusian here