On December 22, Yulia Slutskaya was detained at the airport upon arrival in Minsk following a vacation. Searches were conducted at the Press Club office where Sergey Olshevski and Peter Slutsky were and at the homes of Slutskaya, Sergey Olshevsky, Programme Director of the Press Club Academy Sergei Yakupov, and Alla Sharko. Security officers seized computers, phones, bank cards; our colleagues were detained. Yakupov was deported to Russia on December 31 and forbidden entry in Belarus for 10 years; no charges have been made against him.
For almost 24 hours, neither lawyers nor relatives could find out where the detainees were being held. They were later understood to have been at the Financial Investigation Department of the State Control Committee and then to have been transported to the detention centre at Okrestsina. Finally, on December 24, the news broke that all were suspects in a criminal case under Part 2 of Article 243 of the Criminal Code (grand tax evasion) and would remain imprisoned at the detention centre.
On December 31, Slutskaya, Olshevsky, Sharko and Slutsky were charged under that same article, as well as under Part 6 of Article 16 of the Criminal Code (complicity in a crime). They have been remanded in custody until at least February 23.
On 14 January 2021, 11 Belarusian human rights organisations published a joint statement on recognizing our detained colleagues as political prisoners.
February 23 was the date of expiration of our colleagues' preliminary detention. However, that morning the news broke out that their restrictions were prolonged: they are to remain in custody until April 23. But they remained behind bars on April 23 and on June 23. The detention term has been extended until August 23.
Their relatives and lawyers tell their stories.