The case against the freelance videographer Andrei Tolchyn has been forwarded to the prosecutor’s office for review and submission to the court. The former journalist from Homel is charged with establishing or taking part in an extremist group, rather than for posing a risk to national security as previously assumed.
It’s unclear what exact offenses Andrei Tolchyn is alleged to have committed because the accusation is confidential. The detainee can’t mention it in his correspondence since the penitentiary censors his letters. Tolchyn’s lawyer is also limited by the secrecy order.
The 64-year-old journalist suffers from arterial hypertension and pain in his legs.
The Belarusian human rights community declared Andrei Tolchin a political prisoner.
Law enforcers arrested Tolchyn on September 23 of this year. The day following the arrest, authorities searched his apartment, where he resided with his spouse. Investigators seized computer equipment and other digital media.
Andrei Tolchyn became a prominent figure in the democratic community of Homel during the 1990s when Belarus was gaining independence. He worked as a service engineer at the radio factory Pramen and took part in the independent trade union movement, campaigning for the safeguarding of workers’ rights. Andrei was elected as a deputy of the Homel City Council. This council, one of two in Belarus, publicly opposed the communist coup in Moscow and celebrated the Republic of Belarus’s proclamation of independence in August 1991.
Andrei worked in the Public and Media Relations Committee during his tenure in the Council. He was a member of the United Civil Party, which has been dissolved by the authorities. He used to lead the party’s city organization for a long time and oversaw the operations of charitable foundations that promote democracy. He was intermittently unemployed.
After the 2010 presidential elections, Tolchyn collaborated with independent media outlets as a videographer and was fined several times and even administratively detained. In 2020, Tolchyn got arrested along with journalist Larysa Shchyrakova while documenting demonstrations, under the allegation of involvement in mass riots.