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Another Trial for Human Rights Work Starts in Minsk

Rights Defender Anastasia Loika Tried on Politically Motivated Charges

Anastasia Loika, 2022. © 2022 Private

Today, the Minsk City Court held the first hearing in the trial against a prominent Belarusian human rights defender, Anastasia Loika. She is facing up to 12 years in prison in reprisal for her longstanding human rights work.

Anastasia Loika, also known as Nasta Lojka, is widely recognized for her nearly 15 years of human rights work, focusing on issues such as discrimination, equality, rights of foreigners and stateless people, human rights education, and legal redress.

In September 2022, Belarus’ law enforcement detained Loika near a court building, where she had attended the reading of the verdict in a sham trial against other activists. Since then, she has served out six 15-day administrative arrests for “petty hooliganism.”

In December, while still in administrative detention, Loika was charged with criminal offences, including “incitement of enmity or discord” against the “professional social group of law enforcement officers.” The charges came in connection with Loika’s report documenting human rights violations committed by police.

During her administrative and pretrial detention, authorities subjected Loika to smear campaigns, torture, and other forms of inhuman treatment. They also recorded “confession” videos of her under duress, searched her mother’s home, disbarred her lawyers, and restricted her correspondence.

Today, only a few minutes after the trial began, the judge closed the hearing to the public, citing the “extremist” nature of the case, even though none of the case materials were labelled extremist.

Belarusian authorities go out of their way to create an information vacuum around continuing politically motivated repression. They try politically motivated cases behind closed doors, hold political prisoners in incommunicado detention for months straight, bully their lawyers into silence, and intimidate their families.

The sham trial of Loika for “incitement of enmity against a social group” – when she has spent her whole career combatting hatred and discrimination – is a ludicrous attempt to silence yet another powerful voice for human rights.

Belarusian authorities should put an end to this nonsensical prosecution and immediately and unconditionally free Loika.

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