Monsters and Critics carries an interview
with Belarusian opposition leader Pavel Sevyarynets, recently sentenced to a year of 'community service' for participating in an unauthorised protest.
[Zayats] To all appearances, you cut a fairly inoffensive figure for the official Minsk. You promote Christian values and position yourself as a writer. Why stage a show trial?
[Sevyarynets] Both Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko are religious and they based the Orange Revolution on moral values. The current "Christian-atheistic" regime regards the Christian national idea as a danger. Therefore, I would not call the movement we head as innocuous for the authorities.
[Zayats] In contrast to Mikalay Statkevich you chose to answer the judge's questions. Did you hope for a fair ruling?
[Sevyarynets] Alas, such dreams are long gone. I agreed to reply the judge's questions to make sure that the details of this case are recorded and can be studied in the future. Once Belarus has gone through democratic reforms and a different regime has been installed, I believe several court hearings will be held to restore the truth.
[Zayats] Why do you think the protests on 18-19 October triggered a court hearing?
[Sevyarynets] This protest convincingly demonstrated to everybody, including the authorities, that Belarusian are capable of mounting a protest, speaking out against falsification and rising up to uphold their rights. The current regime wants to suppress the opposition. Presently the powers that be are particularly scared of those who are able to organize street protests and lead the people. That is why Statkevich and me have been sentenced to community service. This is only the beginning of a series of repressive actions lined up by the authorities. However, no matter what the authorities will come up with, they cannot jail everyone.
[Zayats] What do you think is behind the prosecutor's demands?
[Sevyarynets] If the amnesty is factored in, we will have to do two years of community service. Thus, the authorities are doing their utmost to preclude Statkevich and Sevyarynets from taking part in the presidential campaign in any capacity. Other opposition politicians will face similar pressure.
[Zayats] You were at the helm of the Young Front for seven years. How consolidated do you think the youth opposition movement is?
[Sevyarynets] The Young Front has stepped up its activities. Its leadership is gearing up for the struggle ahead. I think that Belarusian young people are much more active than older opposition members.
[Zayats] How would you pass the time during your sentence?
[Sevyarynets] My colleagues will be able to visit me. I will try to keep in touch with them and take part in the political life of the country. I hope that my experience of fighting the regime will come in handy for those who will be organizing street protests. Also, I have been able to publish the first volume of my book entitled "National Idea\…". I will be working on the second volume while doing community service.