Artsyom Dubski, a member of Malady Front, a Czech-registered opposition youth group, who was sentenced to prison earlier this month, has gone on a hunger strike in the pretrial detention center in Babruysk, Mahilyow region.
"Artsyom is protesting pressure from the administration of the center, which wants him to write a request for his transfer to a correctional institution to serve his sentence," Malady Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich told BelaPAN.
"Under regulations, a convict may stay in a pretrial detention center until he receives replies from all institutions to which he appealed his sentence," Mr. Dashkevich said. "Artsyom did well to refuse to write such a request."
On July 7, the Asipovichy District Court sentenced the 21-year-old Dubski to one year in a minimum security correctional institution. He was found guilty of failure to comply with the requirements of a two-year "restricted freedom" sentence that he had received for his participation in an unsanctioned street protest staged in Minsk on January 10, 2008.
Mr. Dubski is one of the young people who were prosecuted and convicted over participation in that demonstration. His two-year "restricted freedom" sentence required him to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays and never leave his home city. Criminal proceedings were instituted against Mr. Dubski later in the year over his failure to meet these requirements. In October 2008, Mr. Dubski moved to Ukraine to apply for political asylum in that country, but he later withdrew his application and returned to Belarus after learning that authorities were putting pressure on his mother and had taken away her adopted children.
The young man was arrested at the Homyel railroad station on February 13, 2009, when he was traveling from Russia to Minsk. On April 15, he was released on his own recognizance pending trial.
Judge Zhanna Sharabayka of the Asipovichy District Court actually gave Mr. Dubski a six-month prison term, but since the convict had yet to serve one year of his two-year restricted freedom sentence and since two days of restricted freedom count as one day in prison, he was sentenced to spend one year in prison. The young man was arrested in the courtroom and taken into custody.
In May, Amnesty International granted "prisoner of conscience" status to Mr. Dubski and 10 other youths who had been given restricted freedom sentences over the January 10, 2008 demonstration.
More than 3,000 people took part in that demonstration, protesting the government’s crackdown on small businesses. They staged a rally in Minsk’s downtown Kastrychnitskaya Square and marched along Independence Avenue to the House of Government in Independence Square, where they dispersed several hours later. Almost 30 people were arrested and 23 of them were convicted under the Administrative Offenses Code.
A total of 13 youths were later charged under the Criminal Code in connection with that demonstration and were convicted of "active participation in group actions grossly disturbing the public peace."