Olga Shparaga was released from the detention center on October 24. The moment she was released, officials decided to keep her in prison for another 2 weeks. Olga made a decision to escape from Belarus and informed the next day that she was finally safe in Vilnius. Moreover, she shared her plans about writing a book about Belarusian revolution, sisterhood in prisons and civil society, which was born in Belarus very recently.
Our colleague in Belarus, Olga Shparaga, co-founder of the informal educational institution ECLAB (European College of Liberal Arts Belarus) and member of the Coordination Council in Belarus has been detained and held in custody for speaking out and taking part in the regular protests against the government of Alexander Lukashenko.
Olga was first detained with her husband Alexander Adamiants, Director of the Center for European Studies (Minsk) and ECLAB. They were released but after a few days but Olga was detained again and was tried for participating in an “unauthorized mass event”. She has been transferred to Zhodina isolator prison, 60 km from Minsk. Officially, she should be released in 15 days but it is not clear whether this will happen.
We believe that the EU must uphold the right to freedom of speech wherever it may be breached. Belarus, as a successor state of the USSR, is, by implication, a signatory of the Helsinki Agreement of 1976. If Belarus is breaching its own Constitution and laws, it must be held accountable for its international commitments.
We have written to the EU Ambassador to Belarus, Dirk Schuebel, asking him to intervene in order to free Olga. We requested that the Ambassador convey to the Belarusian authorities our strong protest against the injustice that Olga is suffering. Her human right of free speech is also her right as an academic and we will not remain silent until Olga is released and can do what she does best – teach philosophy and educate young Belarusians.
As with the other detained people in Belarus, Ambassador Schuebel stands with Olga Shparaga and will be pleased to meet with her once she has been released. According to Ambassador Scheubel the EU Delegation supports the Belarusian people in their search for justice and in their aspiration to realize their fundamental democratic rights. Since 9 August, the European Union has repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to end all disproportionate and unacceptable violence against peaceful demonstrators, to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained illegally, including political prisoners, and to carry out a full and transparent investigation of all alleged violations. Regrettably, the Belarusian authorities have not accepted any offers of dialogue to help to find a peaceful solution to this crisis. The EU has already imposed sanctions on 40 individuals responsible for repression and intimidation of peaceful demonstrators, opposition members and journalists, as well as for misconduct of the electoral process and is prepared to add additional sanctions as warranted.
ECLAB has been an ECOLAS partner for several years and we have been in contact with and visited that unique institution. It has been operating for almost a decade and has provided a liberal arts type education to high school and university students through informal discussion and seminars. As an act of solidarity ECOLAS encourages its partners to appeal either to the Belarusian Embassies in their countries or to their diplomatic delegations in Belarus to protest against the arrest of our colleague. We sincerely hope that Olga will be released soon.