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Santa Claus Fights For Rights In Belarus


Nice viral video from human rights activists in Belarus who dressed up as Santa Claus to draw attention to a law that restricts unregistered organizations.

Back in October, the group, all dressed as Santa Claus, entered the state prosecutor's office with a petition admitting involvement in an unregistered Santa Claus association.

According to the Belarusian news agency BelaPAN, the Santas made the following confession:

“We have been carrying out the [following] activities: organizing New Year’s Eve parties in different towns of Belarus, handing out gifts (including among minors), making speeches at meetings and in the press with congratulations.”

According to Article 193-1 in the Belarusian criminal code, it is illegal to participate in unregistered civil society groups. Those found violating this statute face up to two years in prison.

The Santa action was endorsed by prominent Belarusian human rights activists including Valer Shchukin. According to BelaPAN, Shchukin said he was "ready to serve punishment for being Santa Claus."

But with Article 193-1 on the books, it looks like the Santas might well have a lonely Christmas in Belarus this year.

-- Michael Hirshman

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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