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In Belarus two men facing jail over teddy bear pro-democracy stunt. Release them!

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In Belarus two men facing jail over teddy bear pro-democracy stunt. Release them!


Why this is important

Two Belarusian men — student Anton Suryapin and estate agent Sergei Basharimov — are facing a seven-year jail sentence for posting online photographs of teddy bears carrying placards in support of freedom of expression in Belarus. They have been charged with “organizing illegal migration”. They are prisoners of conscience.

Please write immediately in Belarusian, Russian or your own language:

-- Calling on the Belarusian authorities to release Anton Suryapin and Sergei Basharimov immediately and unconditionally; and to respect their right to liberty under Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

-- Urging them to guarantee the right to freedom of expression in line with their international human rights obligations, including Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Please sign this petition and send appeals as soon as possible to:

Aleksandr Lukoshenko
Administratsia Prezidenta Respubliki Belarus
ul. Karla Marksa 38
220016 Minsk, Belarus
Fax: +375 17 226 06 10, +375 17 222 38 72
Email: [email protected]
(Salutation: Dear President Lukashenka)

General Prosecutor
Aleksandr Koniuk
ul. Internatsionalnaya 22
220050 Minsk, Belarus
Fax: +375 17 226 42 52 (Please say "fax" clearly when someone answers)
Email: [email protected]
(Salutation: Dear General Prosecutor)

Please also send copies to Belarusian embassies and diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

On 4 July a Swedish advertising company Studio Total arranged a stunt to draw attention to widespread violations of freedom of expression and human rights in Belarus — the small former Soviet republic, widely known as “the last dictatorship in Europe”. Two members of Studio Total flew into Belarus from Lithuania, in violation of Belarusian law, in a single-engined aircraft.

The Swedes flew low over the town of Ivenets, and dropped 876 teddy bears on parachutes carrying placards calling for freedom of expression in Belarus. Video footage released by Studio Total the following day shows two people in animal masks, one of whom is throwing teddy bears out of the plane.

The Belarusian Ministry of Defence immediately denied that Belarusian airspace had been violated and said the video footage of the event was clearly a fabrication. Police in Ivenets collected up the teddy bears, but eyewitnesses interviewed by Radio Free Europe and Belarusian independent media said they had seen the teddy bears and the aircraft.

However, the Belarusian authorities have unlawfully detained two innocent people in connection with the events:


Anton Suryapin, a 20 year-old student at Belarus State University's journalism school, was arrested on 13 July 2012. He is facing seven years in prison according to article 371 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (“the organization of illegal migration”).

The Belarusian authorities arrested Anton Suryapin because he was one of the first to publish photos of the Ivenets teddy bears. He uploaded on a website he runs called Belarusian News Photos photographs of the teddy bears dropped from the plane. Anton Suryapin maintains that he received the photographs from an anonymous source.

According to Belarusian law, Anton Suryapin can be held for 10 days, after which he must be charged or released. The 10-day period of detention ended on 23 July 2012, and as he has not been released, it is believed that he has been charged with “organising illegal migration”. His lawyer is unable to discover any further information, because Anton Suryapin is being held incommunicado in the KGB prison in Minsk.


Sergei Basharimov, who runs a flat rental agency in Minsk, was detained on suspicion of having assisted the Swedes to cross the border illegally because he had arranged a flat for the pilot and his two associates, who travelled to Minsk before the stunt and left immediately afterwards. He was charged on 16 July under Article 371 Part 3 of the Criminal Code, under which Anton Suryapin is being held, and also faces up to seven years in prison.

The pilot, Tomas Mazetti, denounced the arrests in an interview with website on 18 July, and said he and his colleague had had no contact whatsoever with Anton Suryapin, and that Sergei Basharimov had merely handed them the key to a rental apartment.

Posted August 14, 2012
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