English PEN welcomes the release of editor Aliaksandar Zdzvizhkou (Sdvizhkov), who was serving a three-year sentence for reprinting controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Nonetheless, we regret that the conviction was not overturned.
In February 2006, Zdzvizhkou, former deputy editor of the weekly Zhoda newspaper, reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, which had been previously published in a Danish newspaper, causing an international furore. The authorities immediately began an investigation into possible ‘inciting of religious hatred’ and he was eventually arrested in November 2007. Many journalists believed that Zdvizkou’s arrest and sentencing was politically motivated. Zhoda gave coverage to an opposition candidate during the March 2006 election and the authorities closed the newspaper that same month.
Zdzvizhkou’s lawyer said that the decision of the Supreme Court to reduce the sentence was due to the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ of the case. She cited the journalist’s deteriorating health, his good behaviour in prison and his mother’s ill health. The decision was made one day after the European Parliament on 21 February adopted a resolution condemning the Belarusian authorities for politically motivated imprisonments. It included the sentencing of Zdvizhkou and called for his release. The European Parliament resolution also condemned the lack of improvement in human rights in Belarus and the clampdown on independent media.
Zdzvizhkou, was released around 22 February 2008 after a Supreme Court in Belarus reduced his three-year sentence to three months, time he had already served. Zdzvizhkou had been in detention since his arrest on 18 November 2007 in Barysau, near Minsk. Charged with ‘incitement of religious hatred’ under article 130 of the criminal code, he was sentenced on 18 January 2008 to three years imprisonment.
For images of Zdzvizhkou’s and other releases in Belarus go to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty web site: http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2008/02/940502b3-5eb7-4253-b0b6-fa345b053638.html
Please send appeals:
·Welcoming the release of Aliaksandar Zdzvizhkou on reduction of his sentence;
·Expressing regret that the conviction still stands, believing it to be in contravention of Article 19 of the United Nations International Declaration on Human Rights that guarantees the right to freedom of expression.
President of the Republic of Belarus
Alyaksandr G. LUKASHENKA
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Fax: 00 375 (172) 26 06 10 or 00 375 (172) 22 38 72
Similar appeals should be sent to the Belarusian embassy:
HE Mr Aleksandr Mikhnevich
6 Kensington Court
London W8 5DL
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/belaruseditoraliaksandarzdzvizhkoureleased/