In the past three days, repressive forces of the Belarusian state are trying to detain members of the board of the environmental organization Ecohome. According to the NGO Arnika, which has been cooperating with Ecohome in the long-term, the Belarusian state and its security forces are exploiting the current political situation to persecute all inconvenient people under imaginary pretexts. "We are calling for an end of the persecution of environmental activists and for the immediate release of Irina Sukhy," says Arnika.
"Ecohome is the leader of the Belarusian anti-nuclear movement, which has been one of the strongest manifestations of civil society in the past decade. The state has persecuted environmental activists for a long time, as confirmed by an investigation of the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention. We are afraid that the regime is trying to use the confusing situation during the massive protests of civil society against falsifying the results of the presidential election to settle accounts with its critics and inconvenient people," said Martin Skalský, chairman of the Arnika association and head of the Citizens Support Centre.
A prominent environmental activist, the founder of one of Belarus's most influential NGOs Ecohome, Irina Sukhy, was detained in her apartment in Minsk on Sunday, September 6th, 2020, according to her friends and co-workers. Two masked men together with a third one, who introduced himself as a police officer, detained the activist claiming she attended an unauthorized public assembly and took her to a pre-trial detention. They confiscated a computer, a mobile phone and an Internet router from the apartment during the house search. On Monday, September 7th, an online trial took place in the presence of about two dozen members of the public, during which it turned out that at the time when Irina Sukhy was supposed to attend an unauthorized assembly, she was traveling by car to a cottage, which was confirmed by several people. Another trial is supposed to take place these days. In addition, on Monday, September 7th, police tried to get into the apartment of Ksenia Malyukova, a member of the committee of the NGO Ecohome, and on Tuesday, September 8th, a similar attempt was made in the apartment of another member of the Ecohome committee, Maryna Dubina. Ksenia Malyukova and Maryna Dubina managed to leave the apartments before being detained.
Today, Arnika wrote a letter to the Belarusian authorities and international organizations calling for an end of the persecution of environmental activists and the immediate release of Irina Sukhy. "The arrest of Irina Sukhy and the attempt to detain other members of the Ecohome committee appear to be related to the final phase of the preparations for the launch of a nuclear power plant near the village of Ostrovets. It is Ecohome that has been drawing attention to the safety and environmental risks of this project for a long time. At a time of political instability in Belarus, the international community should pay more urgent attention to the warning of Belarusian activists than before," Skalský added.