Dzianis Ivashyn

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Belarusian freelance journalist Dzianis Ivashyn has been serving a sentence of 13 years and one month since being convicted in September 2022 on charges of treason and “illegal collection and dissemination of information about private life.” Officers of the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) detained Ivashyn in March 2021.

Ivashyn is a freelance investigative reporter for independent news site Novy Chas and a volunteer editor of the Belarusian-language website of the international investigative project InformNapalm, which reports on the Russian government’s role in military conflicts.

On March 12, 2021, KGB officers arrested Ivashyn at his home in the western city of Hrodna, according to a report by the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), an independent advocacy and trade group operating from exile.

According to BAJ, the arrest was in response to Ivashyn’s recent article in Novy Chas, which CPJ reviewed, alleging that former officers of the Ukrainian riot police unit Berkut, which was disbanded over allegations of brutal conduct in 2014, had been hired by the Belarusian police. The article, which named some of those officers, alleged that they took part in the crackdown on protesters after the contested 2020 Belarusian election.

On the day of Ivashyn’s arrest, law enforcement officers searched his apartment for several hours, according to BAJ and Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian-language service of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Volha Ivashyna, the journalist’s wife, was quoted by BAJ as saying that officers sought out anything in the Ukrainian language or related to Ukraine during the raid, confiscating phones, laptops, books, and business cards.

Officers also searched the home of Ivashyn’s mother that evening, and they searched his grandmother’s home on March 15, 2021, according to Radio Svaboda and BAJ

Also on March 15, 2021, authorities charged Ivashyna with “interfering with a law enforcement officer,” according to BAJ. A conviction carries up to three years in prison, according to Article 365 of the Belarusian criminal code. 

On September 19, 2021, authorities charged him with treason, as well, according to news reports. Ivashyna told CPJ via phone that the charge, which according to Article 356, Part 1, of the criminal code, carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail, is “complete nonsense.” 

The journalist’s mother Lyudmila Ivashyna was quoted as saying by Current Time, the Russian-language digital network created by U.S. Congress-funded broadcasters RFE/RL and Voice of America, that her son suffered a heart attack after authorities placed him in solitary confinement between June 19 and June 25, 2021, without disclosing a reason. She said that he was seen by a doctor. 

On March 22, 2022, the KGB accused Ivashyn of cooperating with Ukrainian intelligence, according to Viasna, a banned human rights group

On September 14, 2022, a court in Hrodna convicted Ivashyn to 13 years and one month in prison for treason and interfering with law enforcement, according to multiple news reports

In January 2023, Hrodna Legal Protection, a local human rights group, reported that Ivashyn was not convicted of “interfering with a law enforcement officer,” but of “illegal collection and dissemination of information about private life.” The group said it did not know when or why the charge was changed, given the trial’s closed proceedings. 

The court also fined Ivashyn 4,800 rubles (US$1,880) and ordered him to pay a total of 18,000 rubles (US$7, 050) in “moral compensation” to nine unidentified people in whose activities he allegedly interfered, according to media reports, Viasna, and Ivashyna, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. 

On October 3, 2022, Ivashyna reported on Telegram that authorities at Prison No. 1 in Hrodna had taken away her husband’s coat. On October 13, she reported that they had also taken away his towel and a photo of her. Ivashyn was again placed in solitary confinement from November 4 to 14, his wife reported on Telegram

On December 20, 2022, the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld Ivashyn’s sentence, according to Viasna. 

In June 2023, after months of being moved around several prisons, Ivashyn was transferred to Prison No. 8 in the town of Zhodzina, near Minsk, according to Viasna and Radio Svaboda. He cannot receive any food deliveries, his wife reported in October 2023.

On October 20, 2023, Ivashyna told CPJ that the journalist had called his parents the day before. “He feels good, healthy, cheerful,” she said. 

In October 2023, CPJ called the Belarusian Ministry of Interior for comment, but nobody answered the phone. CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee but did not receive any replies.