A freelance journalist who worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarus service remains in prison on unspecified charges, despite serving two 10-day sentences on controversial felony charges, her relatives said on Thursday.
Andrey Kuznechik’s family told RFE/RL that they were officially informed that the journalist was being transferred from the infamous Akrestina detention center, where several prisoners said he was tortured at another facility in Minsk Was.
The family was also informed that a criminal case had been launched against Kuznechik on unspecified charges.
Kuznechik has been held by the authorities since the end of November.
After going for a bike ride on the 25th of last month, Kuznechick returned to his apartment with four people in civilian clothes, according to his wife, Alessia Rak.
The men, who showed no identities, then searched their apartments, Raak said, only avoiding the rooms of their two young children.
Kuznechik was then turned away by the group, which gave no reason for his detention.
The journalist was sentenced the next day to 10 days in prison, following a trial in which he refused to accept a guilty verdict on felony charges.
On 6 December, when his initial sentence ended, he was not released, but was also sentenced to a further 10 days in prison for the felony charge.
Relatives of Kuznechik told RFE/RL at the time that the journalist maintains his innocence.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has said that the extension of Kuznechik’s sentence “on the absurdly fabricated charges” should be considered a crime in itself.
In a statement on 6 December, Fly, referring to the authoritarian, said, “The state-sponsored kidnapping of Andrey continues, in order to further the Lukashenko regime’s efforts to prevent independent information access to the Belarusian people. Andrey is immediately brought back to his family.” Should be allowed to return.” Ruler Alexander Lukashenko.
Tensions have been running high in Belarus since Lukashenko, in power since 1994, was declared the winner of the August 2020 presidential election that opponents and the West say was rigged.
Many Western countries have since refused to recognize Lukashenko as Belarus’ legitimate leader, making him more dependent than ever on Russia, which analysts say is trying to tighten its grip on its smaller neighbour. Using his weak position for
Tens of thousands of people have been detained, and human rights activists say more than 800 are now jailed as political prisoners.
Independent media and opposition social media channels have also been targeted.
The Reporters Without Borders group has described Belarus as Europe’s most dangerous country for media personnel.