Chronicle of events: Criminal prosecution and detention of a human rights activist, Leonid Sudalenko
The current criminal prosecution of human rights defenders, Leonid Sudalenko and Maria Tarasenko, is happening alongside unprecedented mass political repression and a deep human rights crisis in Belarus, which more than a 1,000 Belarusians have already suffered. Human rights community representatives are not an exception as they are also subjected to repression and pressure due to their activism.

In this article, we list the events related to the persecution of Leonid Sudalenko, the head of the Homel department of human rights centre, ‘Viasna (Spring)’, in chronological order.

Personal information
Leonid Sudalenko is a well-known human rights activist both in Belarus and abroad, who has been defending human rights for 20 years and has provided free legal assistance, including preparing individual appeals to the Human Rights Committee on violations of human rights by the Belarusian authorities. In 2018 he was awarded the French Republic’s prestigious Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood Prize for his work, and in 2019 he was awarded the National Human Rights Prize in the category ‘Human Rights Defender of the Year’.

Belarusian authorities regularly persecuted Sudalenko for his human rights activism, staging provocations to persecute him, putting him on the control list for crossing the state border, and trying to discredit him through pro-state mass media publications and the secret services.

On 5 January 2021, the Homel department of a social and political centre, ‘Viasna (Spring)’, was searched for about 10 hours. A human rights activist, Leonid Sudalenko, was taken to the Department for Combating Organised Crime.

The search was initiated based on information that there might have been evidence for the criminal case against Vladimir Nepomnyashchikh in the office. All documents related to Sudalenko’s activities were seized, and equipment and national flags were confiscated. According to the itinerary, 304 items were taken away.

On 18 January 2021, Sudalenko was detained. Late on Monday evening, Maria Tarasenko, Sudalenko’s assistant, was also detained. A search was conducted of her house in Homel, and she was placed in a pre-trial detention centre. Sudalenko was taken to the Investigative Committee, from where he was transferred to a pre-trial detention centre as well. He is under investigation under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (organisation and preparation of group activities in flagrant breach of the peace). On the day of is detention, Sudalenko’s message to the public appeared on the website of the Homel department of ‘Viasna (Spring)’: he had asked for its publication in case of his detention.

On 20 January 2021, Sudalenko and Tarasenko were recognised as political prisoners.

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