Pastor ALIAKSANDR ZARETSKI, Evangelical Church in Novalukoml (Čašniki district, Viciebsk voblasc)

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Pastor Aliaksandr Zaretski

Pastor Aliaksandr Zaretski, Evangelical Church in Novalukoml (Čašniki district, Viciebsk voblasc).

Zaretski prayed and advocated in his sermons for ending the war in Ukraine. Local state-employed propagandidsts have repeatedly cautioned the pastor for this and threatened persecution.

On 22 February  2024, the pastor was detained. He was subjected to administrative arrest for 15 days under Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code (Distribution of extremist materials).

He was supposed to be released on 8 March, but on 6 March 2024, he was re-arrested for 15 days under Part 1 of Art. 24.23 Code of Administrative Offenses (Violation of the procedure for organising and holding mass events), based on the sermon and public prayer about to the war in Ukraine during a church worship.

Judge A.S. Smirnova considered the case. The court decision includes the following phrases, which the judge considered participation in an illegal mass event: “Let us pray for those who are in prison for fabricated cases”; “Look how top officials say one thing, but people see something else on the streets”; “we are told to say that everything is fine, that we like it all and are satisfied with everything, and sometimes it’s just easier to agree”; “people in the U. are traitors: when the Russians came, they fell at their feet”; “let’s pray for U., come to prayers for U.”

Previously, Zaretski  had already been detained for speaking out against violence and lawlessness in Belarus.