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SYMPA/BIPART expert Tatiana Kouzina remains in custody after two months. Pre-trial detention extended


28 August 2021 marked the end of a two-month pretrial detention period for Tatiana Kouzina, a public policy researcher and expert at SYMPA/BIPART. After the initial two months of arrest, Tatiana Kouzina's pre-trial detention should have been either extended or changed to a milder form of restraint. Since our colleague was not released on that day, we assume that her pre-trial detention period has been extended to an indefinite period of time.

Tatiana Kouzina was detained on 28 June 2021 at the passport control of the Minsk National Airport while departing for a short trip to Tbilisi, Georgia. In July, the charges against her were made public. She is suspected of "conspiracy to seize power" (part 1 of Art. 357 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus), "calls to actions aimed at damaging national security" (part 3 Art. 361) and of aiding and abetting these crimes. Kouzina's lawyer is bound by a non-disclosure agreement; therefore, there is no information available on the progress of her case. Another well-known Belarusian expert, Valeria Kostyugova, was arrested soon after Kouzina under the same charges.

In the past months, Belarus has witnessed unprecedented repressions against civil society organisations and activists: other experts have been detained under trumped-up charges, similar to Kouzina's case; over a hundred searches of human rights defenders' and civic activists' homes and offices were conducted, and many NGOs, including SYMPA, are in the process of liquidation initiated by the government of Belarus.

At the end of July 2021, experts Tatiana Kouzina and Valeria Kostyugova were recognized as political prisoners. Human rights defenders called upon the Belarusian authorities to release all those detained immediately and discontinue their politically-motivated prosecution.

Since Tatiana Kouzina's detention, representatives of the expert community of Belarus and other countries have made numerous statements and sent open letters urging to stop the unjustified persecution of Tatiana Kouzina and other experts and civic activists.

In early July 2021, world-known political analyst Francis Fukuyama, professors  and alumni of the Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and a group of international experts expressed their protest against the arbitrary actions of the Belarusian authorities and Tatiana Kouzina's detention.

According to the statement, "Ms. Kouzina's arrest is a shocking example of the current Belarusian regime's repressive policies that have attacked other members of the Belarusian research and expert community. As researchers ourselves and members of the broader global democratic community, we strongly protest this arbitrary arrest and demand that Ms. Kouzina be released immediately."

Around the same time, the expert and research community published an open appeal signed by dozens of experts from Belarus and around the world. The Strasbourg Institute of Political Studies released a statement condemning  Kouzina's arbitrary arrest. Her situation has been broadly covered by the Belarusian and foreign media, and SYMPA's alumni signed a joint letter of solidarity, in which they expressed their regret over the arrests of Kouzina and other representatives of the research community and called for their release.

Despite the public condemnation of Tatiana Kouzina's arrest and clearly unjustified accusations put forward against her, Kouzina, like hundreds of other political prisoners in Belarus, remains in custody.

SYMPA/BIPART continues to insist that any professional activities Tatiana Kouzina has been engaged in, such as producing expert materials or teaching,  does not and cannot have anything to do with the charges against her. We reiterate that this case is  politically motivated and is related solely to the expert's research work and expression of her professional opinion about the situation in the country. Kouzina's case is an obvious violation of the freedom of thought and expression while her detention is a violation of the presumption of innocence.

Today, Tatiana Kouzina needs your support. The easiest way to support her and other political prisoners in Belarus is to send them a letter, a postcard or a telegram. You can also make a symbolic money transfer or send a small parcel. It helps her and other unlawfully detained friends and colleagues in Belarus stay connected to the outside world and receive signals that we stand by them. 

Correspondence can be sent to the following address: Кузина Татьяна Сергеевна, СИЗО-1, Volodarskogo str. 2, Minsk 220030, Belarus.