On Monday, a court in Minsk, Belarus, sentenced human rights defender Nasta Lojka to 15 days’ detention on bogus charges of “petty hooliganism”. This is fourth time in three months authorities have locked her up for a 15-day period.
Nasta has worked for years to protect foreigners and stateless persons in Belarus, as well as on Belarus’s repressive “anti-extremist” legislation. Her imprisonment is part of government efforts to annihilate any vestige of human rights work in the country. Prior to the recent arrests, authorities had interrogated her, raided her apartment, and liquidated Human Constanta, the rights group she worked with, along with hundreds of other civil society groups.
Authorities first detained Nasta on September 6, after she attended a court hearing to support activists facing a sham trial, including from the rights group Viasna. The next day a court sentenced Nasta to 15 days’ detention, and on September 22, she was immediately sentenced to another 15 days, having been baselessly accused of “provocative” behavior upon detention amounting to “petty hooliganism”. The trial was held via video conference; Nasta was denied a lawyer. On October 6, authorities released her.
On October 28, authorities detained Nasta again and searched her flat. On the same day a pro-government Telegram channel published a video of her in handcuffs in which Nasta says she is a rights defender, a former board member of Human Constanta, and has received some foreign funding. The post under the video smears Nasta as a “scammer” and accuses her of “aiding extremism,” a charge commonly brought against civil society activists and political opponents.
On October 31, a court sentenced Nasta to her third 15 days. During this detention, Nasta was held in very cold conditions, including once outside without a coat for eight hours, causing her to fall seriously ill. Authorities also refused her medical assistance, denied her meetings with a lawyer, and prevented her receiving packages with medication, warm clothes, or hygiene products. Instead of releasing her on November 12, authorities brought their 4th prosecution.
At her latest court hearing, Nasta said that in detention, officers from the GUBOPiK (The Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption) questioned her twice, using electric shock on her on one occasion.
Belarusian authorities should immediately release Nasta Lojka and end their persecution of her.