Dzmitry Dashkevich was re-arrested as he was ready to leave prison. He has not been able to meet his youngest child, born while he was awaiting trial.
A Christian in prison for supporting the pro-democracy protests of 2020 in Belarus was kept in prison with new charges the day he was to be released.
Dzmitry (Zmister) Dashkevich had joined the pro-democracy protests in Minsk alongside tens of thousands who denounced a rigged election through which President Lukashenko retained his power. These demonstrations were violently repressed by the regime.
In July 2022, Dashkevich was condemned to serve in a penal colony after a search of his apartment.
His wife, Nasta, said on Facebook it was expected that he would be released on 11 July. But that did not happen. “Zmitser had to come out today. But he ‘got away’ from IK-14 and was arrested on 411… I don't know what to say to the children who are waiting for their dad at home in the morning. I don't know…”
According to Christian news website CNE, the Belarusian authorities unexpectedly brought a new criminal case against the prisoner, accusing him of disobeying the rules of the colony he was imprisoned in.
Political prisoner Dzmitry Dashkevich, father of four small children. He was condemned for 1,5 years in prison for protest in August 2020. Today was his last day in prison and his wife went to meet him. But instead of being released he was rearrested for a new criminal case. pic.twitter.com/w7HbmW0KhC
— Christian Vision for Belarus (@ch_vision_by) July 11, 2023
The couple has four children. The youngest was born one month before last year’s trial, at a time when Dzmitry was already in detention. Father and child have not yet met in person.
According to CNE, one week after his detention in 2020, Zmitser Dashkevich wrote on social media: “For me, staying in Belarus is the most difficult daily decision. (...) I don't want heroism. I just want to carry my cross”.
Dashkevich has been a member of the opposition to the Belarusian autocratic regime for almost two decades. He was jailed between 2011 and 2013 and Human Rights Watch denounced he suffered verbal abuse, arbitrary punishments, and threats.
Amnesty International describes him as a “prisoner of conscience”, and the exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya recently expressed her support for his family saying he was “a true hero of Belarus”.
Yesterday, political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich was supposed to be released to be reunited with his wife & four children. But he never left the prison – instead, a new criminal case was started against him, adding more years to his torture. For us, he is a true hero of #Belarus. pic.twitter.com/V5ni4MKlfa
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) July 12, 2023
Christians are among the thousands of citizens brought to the courts for using their freedom of speech in the country.
Sources in Belarus have told Evangelical Focus that new legal cases have been opened this year against Christians, using photos found online of the 2020 demonstrations. Recently, Evangelical Christians have left Belarus after it was known that their names appeared in other court cases.
President Lukashenko is the strongest ally of Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s support has emboldened the regime’s repression against its own citizens.
Read more news about the situation in Belarus here.