August 15, 2005

Prisoner of Conscience Professor Yury Bandazhevsky Freed

Amnesty International Celebrates Victory After Lobbying on His Behalf

"I would like to send a huge thank you to all Amnesty International members across the world whose support I could feel. The work of Amnesty International is very useful." Yury Bandazhevsky, August 10, 2005

The eminent Belarusian academic Professor Yury Bandazhevsky was conditionally released from prison on August 5, after serving four years of an eight-year sentence, Amnesty International announced today. He was released following President Lukashenka's declaration of an amnesty to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. As one of Amnesty International USA's Special Focus Cases, Bandazhevsky's case was the subject of intensive advocacy by the organization.

"Yury's release demonstrates the power of international solidarity," said Michael O'Reilly, Amnesty International USA Casework Director. "In the past year alone, more than 400 Amnesty International student and local groups have campaigned for Yury's freedom, and people from across the United States have sent more than 6,000 online letters on his behalf. We're gratified to see that he is once again back in his home, but we call upon the authorities to lift the conditions they have placed on him."

Under the conditions of his release, Bandazhevsky will be required to report regularly to the police and will be prohibited from participating in any managerial or political activities. Amnesty International will continue to campaign until the conditions are lifted.

"Not only is Yury a resilient person of conscience, he is an accomplished scientist and well-respected academic," said Eleni Lampadarios, Amnesty International USA Belarus Country Specialist. "He has contributed much to the scientific world, and we admire the courage he has shown in his work. We are thrilled to see him out of jail, and we hope that Belarus will grant him the full freedom he deserves."

Professor Bandazhevsky had clashed with Belarusian authorities over their response to the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 and its impact on the health of the population. Particularly controversial were Bandazhevsky's findings that radiation doses had a direct effect on children's health. On June 18, 2001, he was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment after being convicted of taking bribes from students seeking admission to the Gomel Medical Institute, where he was a rector. He has always maintained his innocence. Both domestic and international trial observers believed the trial to be unfair, and Amnesty International was concerned that he did not have access to a lawyer during his pre-trial detention. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, believing that he was convicted on fabricated charges in order to silence him.

Since 1999, Bandazhevsky's case has been taken up by numerous national and international human rights organizations as well as by celebrities, including the popular Russian rock band Leningrad and English rock band, The Cure.

Bandazhevsky told Amnesty International that he is now spending his time getting used to his freedom and looking into work possibilities.