Ward encourages fellow politicians to ‘adopt’ a political prisoner to show solidarity with Belarus

22nd January 2021 - Senator Barry Ward

Fine Gael Dún Laoghaire Senator, Barry Ward, is encouraging fellow politicians to ‘adopt’ a political prisoner from Belarus to show solidarity with the country as they deal with the aftermath of a fraudulent election.

Senator Ward, who has raised the issue of the Belarussian election in the Seanad on a number of occasions, said: “The presidential election in Belarus last August has been widely discredited as having been fraudulent. The European Commission, the Irish Government and many governments across the EU have come out against Alexander Lukashenko and rejected the validity of the election result, with the European Commission describing it as ‘neither free nor fair’.

“The severity of this matter simply cannot be ignored by anyone wishing to protect democracy and the right to vote. European Parliamentarians in particular have a responsibility to stand against this attack on democracy right on our doorstep.

“The people of Belarus need our support and solidarity. In the aftermath of the Election, there were widespread protests, which resulted in violence and the arrest of peaceful protesters and ordinary citizens who were agitating for democracy. Many of these ordinary citizen-protesters remain in jail in Belarus, 187 on today’s (Friday) figures, in very poor conditions.

“Libereco, a German/Swiss NGO, is coordinating a programme for parliamentarians across Europe to ‘adopt’ individual political prisoners in Belarus in order to highlight their cases and call for their release. It is designed to give encouragement to the prisoners, their families and all those advocating for democracy in Belarus.

“So far, over 100 political prisoners have been ‘adopted’ by our colleagues around Europe and in the European Parliament. Parliamentarians are sharing a photo and description of the prisoner they have adopted on social media using #westandBYyou. Libereco are further sharing these posts in an effort to generate momentum and show solidarity with Belarus from across Europe.

“I am encouraging my Irish parliamentary colleagues to embrace this campaign. I have written to all members of the Dáil and Seanad, as well as MEPs, asking them to consider adopting a prisoner and offering them assistance in how to go about it.

“I myself have highlighted the case of Maksim Pauliuschynk, a peaceful protester and political prisoner, who had been jailed for painting ‘We will not forget’ on the footpath near Pushkinskaya metro station, where Aliaksandr Taraikouski, another peaceful and unarmed protester, was shot dead by Belarus police on 10 August.

“Maksim Pauliuschynk was remembering the first confirmed death of the 2020 Belarussian protests. Although police claimed that Aliaksandr Taraikouski was killed by an explosive device he was intending to throw at them, other protesters, and video footage, showed that he was empty-handed when he was shot, and his death certificate records his death as being a result of “massive bleeding from an open wound in the chest.

“My efforts to highlight this case are just one small part of the overall show of solidarity with Belarus by parliamentarians across Europe, and I encourage all my colleagues to get involved”, Senator Ward concluded.

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