Free Student from Unjust Imprisonment in Belarus

Teddy Bear

Targets: Alyaksandr Koniuk, General Prosecutor; Alyaksandr Lukashenka, President of Belarus

Goal: Free student from unjust imprisonment in Belarus

20-year-old student Anton Suryapin was arrested and charged for uploading photographs online. Suryapin, a photographer and a fourth-year journalism student at the Belarusian State University may go to prison for seven years after photographs of teddy bears holding messages promoting free speech were found on his website. His imprisonment is a huge setback for freedom of expression in Belarus.

The messages were related to recent events that violated freedom of expression within the nation. Suryapin was charged with organizing illegal migration, under article 371 of the Criminal Code. Suryapin was detained on July 13 and should have been released on July 23 according to Belarusian law, which states that prisoners can be held up to 10 days.

The teddy bear stunt started back on July 4, 2012 with the Swedish advertising company, Studio Total. Studio Total dropped over 800 teddy bears holding free speech messages into northwestern Belarus via plane. The aircraft illegally entered Belarus from Lithuania. The act was seen as a rebellion against the autocratic rule of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Lukashenka was reelected in 2010 after two fellow candidates were beaten by the police.

Suryapin is accused of involvement with Studio Total although no relations between the two parties have been proven. Information regarding Suryapin’s imprisonment is kept secret. However, journalists are hopeful that a search through Suryapin’s laptop would prove his innocence.

The Belarus government has violated Suryapin’s rights to free speech. We press for the immediate release of Anton Suryapin.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Alyaksandr Koniuk, General Prosecutor and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, President,

We urge for the immediate release of prisoner Anton Suryapin, who has been unjustly detained. The 20-year- old journalism student of BSU posted photographs of the teddy bears as a form of expression. His arrest on July 13, including a search of his apartment, violated his freedom. Belarusian law states that a prisoner cannot be held for more than 10 days without charges. It has come to my attention that he should have been released on July 23. However, as of today, he is still sitting in KGB jail.

According to my knowledge, Suryapin is under suspicion of being involved with the Swedish company, Studio Total that illegally flew into Belarus and dispersed over 800 teddy bears with placards promoting free speech. However, there has been no direct link between the two parties. Your government has not provided enough evidence to continue to detain Suryapin.

When Suryapin posted those photographs on his website, he was merely expressing his right to free speech. His imprisonment exploits his rights as a citizen and I urge you to release him.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: ThinkProgress

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