The slogan on a banner carried by Grodno journalists - "As long as there are journalists, there will be prison cells" - during their peaceful protest on 5 April against the trial of Nikolai Markevich, editor of the banned newspaper Pahonia, and the journalist Pavel Mozheika became reality when police in Grodno, a city on the Polish-Belarusian border, arrested six men who were sentenced to periods of detention. Markevich and Mozheika face up to five years imprisonment under the Belarusian criminal code for allegedly slandering President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. In the September 2001 edition of Pahonia, they had alleged presidential involvement in the "disappearance" of several leading opposition figures. On 9 April, their trial was again postponed, due to the reported sickness of the presiding judge. International observers, alarmed at the use of criminal law to stifle legitimate criticism of state authorities, had gathered at the courtroom.
Expressions of concern at the on-going trial of Nikolai Markevich and Pavel Mozheika and the suppression of press freedom can be sent to:
President of the Republic of Belarus
220016 g Minsk
ul Karla Marksa, 38
fax: + 375 (172) 26 06 10
Carole Seymour-Jones is a member of English PEN's Writers in Prison Committee