MINSK -- New criminal charges have been filed against jailed Belarusian blogger Ihar Losik, his wife says, adding that upon hearing the charges he restarted a hunger strike.
Losik, a consultant for RFE/RL on new-media technologies, also tried to slit his wrists in front of an investigator and a lawyer, his wife, Darya, told RFE/RL on March 11, citing his lawyer.
She said the precise wording of the new charges is unknown and demanded that Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka tell her why her husband has been in prison for nine months.
This comes less than two months after Losik ended a six-week hunger strike to protest charges that he allegedly helped organize riots over last year’s disputed presidential election in Belarus.
News of the new charges against the 28-year-old father of a 2-year-old daughter prompted a response from RFE/RL President Jamie Fly, who urged Lukashenka to release him immediately so he can be reunited with his family.
“All of us at RFE/RL are deeply distressed by today’s new charges against Ihar, and his deteriorating health situation," Fly said in a statement, adding: "Journalism is not a crime and Ihar has been unjustly detained for far too long. Ihar and his family should not be tortured in this way.”
Losik was arrested on June 25, 2020, and accused of using his popular Telegram channel to “prepare to disrupt public order” and “preparation for participation in riots” ahead of the presidential election on August 9.
Losik on December 15 was slapped with charges that could result in an eight-year prison term if he is convicted.
In protest, Losik, who has been recognized as a political prisoner by rights activists, launched his hunger strike.
Losik announced the end of that hunger strike on January 25, saying he did so “on my own volition.” A statement issued by his lawyer at the time said he was “simply moved by the unbelievable wave of solidarity."
But the blogger’s state of mind apparently declined soon afterward based on a handwritten letter that he wrote on February 18 and published on social media after the news of a two-year jail sentence given to two journalists of Belsat.
“I have no illusion. I think it’ll be about five more years, and by that time I will have died. I no longer have any desire to do anything,” Losik wrote. “So much has already been done, and all for naught: Nothing influences anybody. I’ll say it honestly: I doubt anything will change.”
Since the presidential election, Belarus has witnessed regular demonstrations whose size and scope are unparalleled in the country’s post-Soviet history.
Western governments have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote, and imposed sanctions on him and his allies, citing election rigging and the police crackdown.
Lukashenka has refused to step down and says he will not negotiate with the opposition.
In his letter, Losik said he believed everyone who has protested against the government will be jailed and those who aren’t will leave or be silenced.
“Russia will assist with money, and that’s how it will remain for several years to come. That’s why I’m thinking I have to somehow prepare myself. Because I’ve grown tired of waiting and hoping for something good while, each week for the past eight months, things only deteriorate,” he said.
Losik wrote of a sense of helplessness, saying it was sad, but he saw no reason to believe otherwise, and said he didn’t want his wife to witness a trial.
“Better they should just quickly shoot me, so as not to have to witness all that,” he said.