(New York, NY) — Poet and PEN Belarus member Dmitry Strotsev was sentenced to 13 days in prison today after taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Belarus. Detained Wednesday, Strotsev has used social media to publish poetry criticizing the Belarusian government and is now part of a string of prominent writers who have been unjustly detained for exercising the right to speak out. PEN America demands an end to such persecution, and welcomes the news today that the opposition has been awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize.

“Strotsev now joins a long list of Belarusian cultural figures who have been unjustly detained and faced brutal treatment for expressing dissent through their art,” said PEN America’s Eurasia program director Polina Sadovskaya. “These relentless abductions and baseless charges against those who have exercised their right to free expression are unacceptable, and we urge the Belarusian government to cease these abuses. At the same time, the international community must press the Belarusian government to drop all charges against peaceful protestors and end the incessant oppression of its people. To that end, we welcome the awarding of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize to the Belarusian democratic opposition. Today and everyday, we stand in solidarity with those who have been detained and tortured as punishment for seeking a more democratic and just society.”  

On Wednesday, PEN Belarus and others reported Strotsev missing; hours later, his name appeared on a list of those detained at Belarus’ infamous Akrestina Detention Center. Akrestina has been the site of beatings, intimidation, and humiliation of those detained for peaceful protest by security guards. 

The news of Strotsev’s disappearance, detention, and later arrest resulted in waves of support and solidarity from Russian and Belarusian poets and translators. Both PEN-Moscow and PEN-Saint Petersburg have also demanded Strotsev’s immediate release. Earlier this month, three other employees and members of PEN Belarus were detained for participating in the peaceful protests. A fourth colleague, Olga Shparaga is still under arrest. 

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Watch a public virtual reading hosted by PEN America in support of Belarusian protesters. PEN America’s Sadovskaya is available for interviews in English and Russian.