Statement by the Board of the Belarusian PEN Center on the Persecution of Writer Uladzimir Arlou

Writer Uladzimir Arlou punished for reading out a literary work
Statement by the Board of the Belarusian PEN Center on the Persecution of Writer Uladzimir Arlou

The first half of January saw the continuation of court proceedings against the participants of the December 2019 peaceful rallies for the independence of Belarus. Activists, writers, bloggers and journalists were tried under Article 23.34 of the Belarus Code of Administrative Offences for taking part in unauthorized mass gatherings. As a result, they received fines or sentenced to arrest.

On January 10, a BYN540 ($255) fine was handed to co-founder and member of the Board of the Belarusian PEN Centre, writer Uladzimir Arlou.
Uladzimir Arlou stood trial at Minsk’s Leninski District Court where his request to bring well-known scholar and translator Liavon Barsceuski as a witness was rejected. Barsceuski also took part in a peaceful gathering and was tried.

On December 8, 2019, in Kastrysnickaja Square in central Minsk, Uladzimir Arlou read out loud his essay “Independence is…” at a peaceful gathering of citizens to defend the sovereignty of Belarus. This landmark piece, written in 1990 in the final year of the Soviet Union, reflected the writer’s dream of an independent state.

Uladzimir Arlou read out loud his essay once again when in court and told the judge that all he did during the peaceful rally was reading out that text. He stressed that he did not perform any other acts subject to administrative proceedings against him. That means he was fined for reading a literary work in public.

The Belarusian PEN Center strongly protests against the violation of artistic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
The Belarusian PEN Center will continue to follow the trials of the participants of pro-independence rallies and insists on repealing the practice of sentencing that violates Belarus’ international human rights commitments.

The Board of the Belarusian PEN Centre
Minsk, January 13, 2020

The essay “Independence is…” in other language:

Independence means... (English)
Незалежнасьць — гэта... (па-беларуску)
Независимость — это... (по-русски)
Niepodległość to... (Polski)
Незалежність — це... (Українська)
Независимостта — това е... (Български)
Självständighet — det är... (Svenska)
Sendependeco estas... (Esperanto)
Independência é... (Português)
Unabhängigkeit ist... (Deutsch)
Az a Függetlenség, ha... (Magyar)