(New York, NY) — PEN America continues to decry the Belarusian government’s arrest of demonstrators, including leading writers and other cultural figures in the country.

On October 25, the Belarusian opposition staged a national strike, spurring hundreds of thousands to take to the streets to demand fair elections. Belarusian police responded with brutality, detaining hundreds including writers, musicians, and filmmakers. Among them:

  • Zmitser Dashkevich, a writer and former political prisoner, as well as the recipient of the Francišak Aliachnovič award, a prize given by PEN Belarus and the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty to the best Russian or Belarusian language manuscript written in prison. Two days after his detention, Dashkevich received a 15-day sentence.
  • On the same day, Aleś Kraŭcevič was arrested in Grodno, near the Polish/Lithuanian border. Polish and Lithuanian border. Kraŭcevič ‘s historical writing earned him the PEN Belarus Francišak Bahuševič Award. After 72 hours in jail, Kraŭcevič was released with a fine.
  • Eryk Arlou-Shymkus, a musician in the band “Luty Sakavik” and a member of the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre Orchestra, received a 12-day prison sentence.
  • Aliaksandra Babkova, a filmmaker, was arrested alongside her mother, Natalia Bibikava, the former director of the National State Television and Radio Company of Belarus. Aliaksandra received a fine of approximately $75 USD; Natalia’s case has been remanded.

“The Belarusian authorities’ incessant and escalating retaliation against peaceful protesters, including members of the cultural sphere, is deeply alarming. These detentions, arrests, and fines serve to terrorize Belarusian society, forcing those who wish to make their voices heard with threats of unfounded arrest, detention, beatings, and humiliation,” said Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America’s Eurasia program director. “The international community must continue to press for a cessation of violence and of the persecution of all cultural workers and peaceful protesters, and insist on the release of all political prisoners and the holding free and fair elections in Belarus.”

Poet and PEN Belarus member Dmitry Strotsev is still in prison after being detained on October 22. Another PEN Belarus member, philosopher Olga Shparaga, left Belarus after spending 15 days in prison. She is now in Lithuania and has received another 12-day sentence in absentia. Earlier this month, three other employees and members of PEN Belarus were detained for participating in peaceful protests.