Imprisoned Belarus Film Festival Director Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska Released After International Outcry

Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska
Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska Watch Docs Film Festival

Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska, the director of the Watch Docs Film Festival in Belarus, has been released from prison and charges against her dropped after an international outcry this week from human rights organizations and festivals.

Hatsura-Yavorska was first arrested on April 5 for her role in organizing an underground photo exhibition celebrating health workers. She was initially fined 700 Belarusian rubles for “protesting against police” and placed in a detention facility in Minsk. Organizations including the Human Rights Film Network said she was a political prisoner and was being held alongside hundreds of others after a government crackdown on local unrest.

She was due for a court hearing on Thursday (April 15) after the maximum of 10 days in detention, with charges of “raising money for protests” anticipated. Those closed to her feared that she could face several years in prison. However, after a widespread outpouring of support from the international community, which saw fests including Sundance and Berlin release statements calling for her to be freed, Deadline can confirm that she has been released and, as of now, is facing no criminal charges.

Volodymyr Yavorski, Hatsura-Yavorska’s husband, has been forced to flee Belarus and is now living abroad with the couple’s children. Deadline sources state he was told by authorities to leave the country or face prison himself. Yavorski is also a human rights campaigner and is the founder of the Ukrainian human rights film festival Docudays UA. It is understood that he will be unable to return to Belarus for a period of 10 years.

Belarus has been in the midst of political upheaval since a disputed election last summer, with President Alexander Lukashenko claiming he had won a landslide victory to secure a sixth term in office. The result of the election has been questioned by foreign governments and NGOs. There has been a local crackdown on opposition party members, with some jailed and others fleeing the country, while protests have led to more than 600 further arrests.

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