The trial of Polish minority activist and journalist Andrzej Poczobut began on Monday in the Belarusian city of Grodno.
Poczobut is being tried for “calling for actions aimed at harming national security,” for which he faces a maximum sentence of 12 years’ imprisonment.
Poland’s charge d’affaires from Minsk, Marcin Wojciechowski, was denied access to Poczobut, as he was not allowed to enter the courtroom. Only Poczobut’s family was allowed in for a short time. The trial is being held behind closed doors, a decision made by the judge after accepting a request from the prosecution.
The deputy chairman of the Association of Poles in Belarus, Marek Zaniewski, talked to Polish Radio Białystok about the trial, revealing Poczobut has lost a lot of weight in prison and remains in a cage during the proceedings.
Zaniewski emphasized that he has no confidence in the propriety of the trial. “It’s a political show trial, and these always result in harsh sentences being handed down,” he claimed.
Approximately 200 witnesses are due to be called during the trial, which could last up to two months.
Poczobut has been held in custody for the last two years. He was incarcerated on March 25, 2021, accused of propagating hate and attempting to rehabilitate Nazism. In October 2022, he was put on the country’s terror list.
The Polish-Belarusian national was reportedly approached by the Lukashenko regime with an offer of a pardon if he asked for one from the Belarusian dictator, but Poczobut refused.
He was arrested together with other Polish minority leaders including Angelika Borys, Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska, and Anna Paniszewa from the minority in Brest. Angelika Borys was released in March 2022 but is still facing an indictment and is reported to be under house arrest. Both Poczobut and Borys are considered to be political prisoners by the Belarusian opposition.
As a result of efforts by the Polish authorities, Biernacka, Tiszkowska, and Paniszewa were allowed to leave Belarus last year but do not have the right to return to the country. The Association of Poles in Belarus was de-legalized in 2005.