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Writer and former Belarusian PEN President, Vladimir Neklyaev, arrested and beaten

(WiPC/IFEX) - PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee is shocked by the 19 December 2010 arrest and beating of Vladimir Neklyaev, writer, former President of the Belarusian PEN Centre, and Belarus presidential elections candidate. His present whereabouts are unknown and there is deep concern for his well being. The Belarusian PEN Centre has issued an appeal, below. PEN calls for the immediate disclosure of Neklyaev's whereabouts and that he be released. It further calls for him to receive all necessary medical treatment as a matter of urgency.

Statement by the Belarusian PEN Centre Council:

The Belarusian PEN Centre strongly condemns acts of violence against the honorary chairman of the Belarusian PEN Centre and presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev.

On the evening of 19 December he was brutally beaten by security services (doctors later diagnosed brain injury). Unconscious, Vladimir Neklyaev was taken to hospital from where he was kidnapped a few hours later by unknown persons. The present whereabouts of Neklyaev is unknown.

The Belarusian PEN Centre demands an urgent determination of Neklyaev's fate and for guarantees that he is receiving full qualified medical care. We demand an investigation of the beatings and abduction against the honorary chairman of the Belarusian PEN Centre.

We appeal to Belarusian and international human rights organizations, PEN International and the national PEN centers to join our calls for Vladimir Neklyaev's release.

- Council of the Belarusian PEN Centre


BACKGROUND:

Several hundred people protested the outcome of the presidential elections in which the incumbent, President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, was announced the winner by a large majority. The elections have been heavily criticised both within the country and outside, with opposition parties saying that the vote was rigged. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), described the election as "fail[ing] to give Belarus the new start it needed. The counting process lacked transparency. The people of Belarus deserved better." It went on to criticise the mass arrests and described the voting process as "flawed".

On Sunday 19 December, around 10,000 people converged on central Minsk to protest the election outcome. When demonstrators reportedly tried to storm the government building, police set upon the demonstrators, arresting hundreds, including journalists, human rights activists and most of the presidential candidates. Video footage depicts demonstrators being beaten and crushed against a wall, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. Among those arrested is Vladimir Neklyaev, who, as reported by Belarusian PEN and shown in video footage, was severely beaten, hospitalised and then taken to an undisclosed location.

Earlier this year, Neklyaev was briefly detained with scores of members of civil society groups arrested in mid May accused of distributing "false information".

Neklyaev, age 63, a poet and author, is the leader of the organisation "Speak the Truth", set up in February 2010. From 2005 to 2009, he was also president of the Belarus PEN Centre, of which he remains a member.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Appeals should be sent to the Belarusian authorities:

• Condemning the arrest and ill-treatment of Vladimir Neklyaev and other human rights activists and journalists;
• Expressing alarm at Neklyaev's ill treatment and that he is held in an undisclosed place of detention;
• Calling as a matter of urgency that he be provided with all necessary medical attention, and that his whereabouts are made known;
• Urging that he be freed immediately, and that a full and proper investigation be held into his ill-treatment.


APPEALS TO:

President of the Republic of Belarus
Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Belarus
Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or +375 172 22 38 72
Email: [email protected]

Similar appeals should be sent to the Belarusian Embassy in your own country.

Please contact the address below for update on this alert if writing after 4 January 2011.

For further information please contact Sara Whyatt at the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (02) 20 7405 0338 Fax: +44 (0) 20 74050339 Email: [email protected]
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