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Award-winning Belarusian journalist has suspended sentence lifted

Iryna Khalip hugs her mother-in-law after being handed a 2-year suspended prison sentence in May 2011.
Iryna Khalip hugs her mother-in-law after being handed a 2-year suspended prison sentence in May 2011.

Kseniya Avimova/Demotix

Award-winning Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip has had her two-year suspended sentence lifted by a Minsk court, Andrei Aliaksandrau reports.

Khalip, known for her harsh criticism of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus' authoritarian ruler, was arrested on 19 December 2010 together with her husband Andrei Sannikov, an opposition presidential candidate. In May 2011 she was sentenced to two years of suspended imprisonment for “participation in mass disturbances”. The authorities of the country considered peaceful protests against the election fraud that happened in Minsk in December 2010 to be “mass riots” and used them as a pretext for severe clamp down on political opponents, civil society and independent journalists.

Khalip's suspended prison term was due to expire on Sunday, 21 July. The decision to lift the sentence removes restrictions she faced for the last two years. She was not allowed to leave Minsk, had to be at home by 10 pm every day and report to the police weekly.

“They took three years of my life; for two years I lived under de-facto house arrest. They should not expect me to thank them for not sending me to prison,” Iryna Khalip told journalists today.

“There can be no such thing as an 'ex-political prisoner' until this fascist regime is here in our country,” the journalist added.

According to Belarusian human rights defenders, there are still 12 political prisoners in Belarus. Index on Censorship continues to call on the authorities of the country for their immediate and unconditional release.

International human rights groups, including Index on Censorship, will hold an International Day of Solidarity with civil society of Belarus on 4 August in support of political prisoners, human rights defenders and civic activists in Belarus.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • CJFE encouraged by the lifting of Iryna Khalip's sentence

    CJFE condemns the targeting of journalists or activists who exercise their rights to free speech and assembly, and thus celebrates Khalip’s release. However, CJFE remains concerned by the current case against photojournalists and Belarus Press Photo organizers Julia Darashkevich and Vadzim Zamirouski; Darashkevich and Zamirouski were summoned to court in April 2013 after the Belarusian KGB deemed images from the 2011 photo exhibit “extremist” and “deliberately perverted.”

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