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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Political Prisoner: Mikhail Marynich


'People must overpower the fear of repression in their own souls,' said Igor and Pavel Marynich, the sons of an imprisoned political prisoner in Belarus, when they spoke to RFE/RL audience recently concerning the prospects of political transformation in their country. Igor and Pavel used the story of their father, Mikhail Marynich, a well known public leader imprisoned for speaking out against the injustices of the Lukashenka government, to illustrate the grim state of affairs in Belarus whose government they described as a dictatorship. Mikhail Marynich, a former Belarusian diplomat and a presidential candidate against Alyaksandr Lukashenka, headed a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) providing information to assist entrepreneurs and small business at the time of his arrest last year by Belarusian security forces. He was not a member of a specific political party, but 'participated in the joint work of the opposition,' said Igor Marynich. As a result, Marynich found himself under constant government surveillance and on December 30, 2004 he was convicted and sentenced to 8.5 years in prison for purportedly 'stealing' the computers used at his NGO despite testimony at the trial by the U.S. Embassy that it had voluntarily provided the computers to Marynich, and in no way considered them stolen property. Although recently reduced to five years, Igor Marynich views his father's harsh sentence as a 'warning' to the opposition; 'Lukashenka wanted to show with this trial, that a person could be honest, but if they're a threat to the regime, anything can be done to them.' Pavel Marynich added that, 'the regime is scared to hear the truth about itself.' Igor also believes that 'the transformation in Ukraine has strained the Lukashenka regime and that is why our father's sentence was so severe.'
Belarus may be the next showdown between the people and the tyranny. It is easy to become fatigued with trying to keep up with all the developments in the world these days, but these people deserve our support. It is also important to remember that the momentum of freedom, which is so marvelous to watch can be shattered if one of these thuggish regimes cracks down and the West ignores it. Keeping aware of expressing our support can go a long way to prevent tradgedy.


Blogger Laura Brown said...

Hi Dave,

If you'd like to keep up to date on the Marinich story then an excellent resource is Charter 97 (http://www.charter97.org/eng/news/), which gives human-rights issues Belarus much more coverage than most of the Western media.

Also - ahem! - my husband and I are involved in a campaign of letter-writing and demonstrations here in London -- our website at http://volodymyrcampaign.blogspot.com/ includes some fact sheets and sample letters to the Belarusian government.

4/10/2005 01:52:00 AM  

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