Human rights groups are condemning the arbitrary detention of Russian human rights defender and journalist Yekaterina Yanshina.
The journalist was sentenced to 15 days’ administrative arrest on petty hooliganism charges in Minsk after she attended a hearing in the trial of Viasna Human Rights Center leaders on January 5, 2023.
Yanshina had flown to Minsk to support other human rights advocates facing prosecution.
According to the rights group, Article 19, Yanshina travelled to Belarus to follow the prosecution of Viasna leaders Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich.
Yanshina has been working with the renowned Russian organization Memorial Human Rights Defence Center, a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
By reportedly snapping images and live streaming the hearing online, Yanshina, according to the bailiffs, was interfering with the hearing. Yanshina was taken to the Maskouski District Police Department in Minsk to “write a paper” after the officials informed her they needed to check her phone.
Article 19 further reports that Yanshina was taken to one of the courtrooms by the police officers “for a talk.” They were not permitted to be followed into the courtroom by any other hearing attendees. Law enforcement officers forbade Memorial co-chair Oleg Orlov, who was also present at the hearing, from accompanying Yanshina and threatened him with violence if he did.
Amnesty International, Freedom House, Article 19, and the Committee to Protect Journalists are some of the top lobby groups piling pressure for her unconditional release.
“Journalist Yekaterina Yanshina’s arrest during a political trial is a grim encapsulation of Belarusian authorities’ attitude toward dissenting voices and independent reporting,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York.