Leanid Sudalenka

human rights activist, chair of Viasna branch in Homieĺ, sentenced to 3 years in prison, released after serving full sentence

Date of birth: 23 September 1966

Date of detention: 18 January 2021

Charges indicted:

Art. 342 of the Criminal Code — Organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them

Sentence: 3 years

Penalty: imprisonment in a general-security penal colony

Prison sentence start date: 14 January 2022

Date of release: 21 July 2023

Judge: Siarhei Salouski

Prosecutor: Kiryl Vyshniakou, Iryna Kurbatskaya, Yauhen Fartushniak

Godparent: Konstantin von Notz, member of the German Bundestag

Leanid Sudalenka is a human rights activist and chairman of the Homieĺ branch of the Human Rights Center "Viasna".

Leanid Sudalenka has been defending human rights for 20 years. He has provided free legal assistance, including by preparing individual complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of Belarusian nationals whose rights were violated by the government. For his human rights work, he was awarded the prestigious prize of the French Republic “Freedom-Equality-Brotherhood” in 2018. In 2019, he became the winner of the National Human Rights Prize in the nomination “Human Rights Defender of the Year”.

In 2020, Leanid Sudalenka provided legal assistance in appealing against court rulings issued for participating in peaceful assemblies that took place in Homieĺ after the presidential election of August 9.

Sudalenka was detained on January 18, 2021, as a defendant in a criminal case under Article 342 of the Criminal Code ('Organization or active participation in group actions grossly disrupting public order') and was remanded in a detention center.

On January 21, he was transferred to a pre-trial detention center, and his detention was extended by 10 days.

On January 28, Sudalenka faced official charges under Parts 1 and 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of actions grossly violating public order and financing such activities). He remained in custody in pre-trial detention center No. 3 in Homieĺ.

On September 3, 2021, the Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ found Sudalenka guilty of “organizing and preparing actions that grossly violated public order” (Part 1, Article 342 of the Criminal Code), and “training and preparing persons to participate in such actions, as well as their financing or other material support” (Part 2, Article 342 of the Criminal Code). Sudalenka was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.

On January 14, 2022, judge Mikalai Maratayeu of the Homieĺ Regional Court turned down Sudalenka's appeal, confirming the prison term.

On January 26, 2022, Leanid Sudalenka was transferred to penal colony #3 in Vićba, Viciebsk region.

In October 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs added Sudalenka to the 'List of persons involved in extremist activities'.

It is known that the penal colony administration puts pressure on Sudalenka: under the pretext of violating the colony rules, he was deprived of a short visit by relatives and the right to buy essentials in the colony store.

According to the information received by human defenders in December 2022, they keep checking and searching Sudalenka, often turning his belongings upside down, but he does not lose his heart and is cheerful. Previously, he worked at the sawmill, but then he was transferred to the cable disassembly workshop. The conditions at the new job are worse.

At the trial of Ales Bialiatski,  Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich, it became known that two months after the arrest of Leanid Sudalenka, when his wife visited him in remand prison #3 in Homieĺ, the room was bugged. For example, his wife said that Ales Bialiatski had called her and offered his help. The prosecutor focused on the fact that Leanid Sudalenka had asked his wife to collect the bills for the lawyer's fees, medicines, and vitamins that she bought for him.

The case file contained many reports on inspection of the website of the Viasna branch in Homieĺ and Leanid Sudalenka's profile on prisoners.spring96.org—the prosecutor read it out at the trial. It also became known that the investigation monitored the publications about the arrest of Leanid Sudalenka on the website of Viasna and even recorded when that news was the main one on the website.

On July 21, 2023, the human rights defender was released from penal colony #3 having served his full sentence.

Rights advocate Leanid Sudalenka on his jail experience: “I was labeled a persistent violator”

In his latest talk with Viasna, Leanid Sudalenka, our fellow human rights defender and former political prisoner, tells why he decided to leave Belarus, how political prisoners are discriminated against, and why solidarity is essential.

Leanid Sudalenka released after serving jail term in full

Human rights defender and Viasna member, Leanid Sudalenka, was released from Viciebsk penal colony No. 3 on July 21, having completed his sentence. Sudalenka was convicted on November 3, 2021, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment under parts 1 and 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (“organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, and training and preparation of individuals to participate in such actions, as well as their financing or other material provision of such actions). Sudalenka has been held behind bars for two and a half years.

"Rights are not given to us by the state". Big interview with Leanid Sudalenka two weeks before his detention

Two weeks before the detention of Leanid Sudalenka, head of the Viasna Gomel branch, the website of the Belarusian House of Human Rights named after Barys Zvozskau published a large interview with him. How did Leanid go from a country boy to a human rights activist who is well-known in Belarus and beyond? What drove him in his advocacy for ordinary citizens? How many complaints has he made to the UN Human Rights Committee?

“Criminal prosecution of Viasna members is not related to their work,” authorities responded to the UN request

The website of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has published the official response of the Belarusian government to the request of four Special Rapporteurs on the search and detention of human rights defenders, NGO representatives, and independent media, which took place in July 2021.

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