Liverpool fan recites same song every day as detained on high treason
A Liverpool FC fan and journalist is being held in prison for high treason.
Andrei Aliaksandrau was arrested in his native Belarus in January for “organizing and preparing for or actively participating in actions seriously undermining public order”.
More recently, these charges have been strengthened to include high treason – punishable by up to 15 years in prison in Belarus.
Belarusian authorities accuse Andrei and his partner Iryna Zlobina of funding the protests that have rocked the country since President Alexander Lukashenko returned to power after the elections last August, which were marred by allegations of widespread fraud.
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Andrei’s lawyer said the recent decision to charge him with high treason “shocked” Andrei and he denies the charges.
As a journalist, Andrei worked for several years on the staff of the London-based Index on Censorship, an organization that campaigns for free speech.
He had returned to Belarus but was still working for Index as a freelance collaborator when he was arrested in January.
His former colleagues said Andrei, a huge Liverpool fan, recited the lyrics to the Reds’ anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone every day in jail to keep himself going.
Former Index on Censorship editor Rachael Jolley said Andrei is the kind of person who puts his life and soul into the cause to make people understand what is happening in Belarus.
She said: “He is very committed to media freedom and believes that the world is not paying enough attention to what is going on there.
“He worked so hard to get stories out of Belarus when most journalists would be too worried to cover them. He continues to cover stories when others have given up.
Natasha Schmidt, editor-in-chief of IranWire and who worked at Index for 13 years, most recently as associate editor, said: “He is a great journalist and a great colleague.
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“Andrei knows Belarus and the wider region so well, including Ukraine from which he has produced numerous reports in recent years.”
She added: “Considering what is happening in Belarus, he would have thought that if he was not already there, it was time for him to come back and join this important movement.
“Andrei is one of those people who is brave without trying to be. He is very attached to his work and to freedom of expression in the region.
Sean Gallagher, who also worked alongside Aliaksandrau at Index, says his arrest is of great concern but not entirely unexpected.
He said: “I hate being fatalistic, but it was only a matter of time before he was detained, given the nature of the regime.”
“I clearly remember talking to him about how we should communicate and whether he should continue to use Gmail or if we should switch to an encrypted platform. His response was, ‘Gmail is fine because using the encryption raises a flag ””.
“He was well aware that he was being watched.
According to local news sites, the first charge against Andrei in January would not allow him to be held without trial for more than six months, meaning he should have been released last month without the new charge.
His former colleagues speak with great affection of Andrei and his love of football, Liverpool FC and British pubs.
He was a regular at the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon, London when Index was based at the Free Word Center and has a special passion for fine malt whiskey, making trips to various distilleries in Scotland during his time in the country.
Natasha Schmidt said: “As a colleague it was very easy to hang out with him and had a great sense of humor. He was a good person, he was so relaxed and laughed and relieved any tension in the office. Politics.”
Rachael Jolley added: “He always believed there would be a change and would do whatever he could to change it. He firmly believes that Belarus will one day have a free society,”
“We all hope to be able to see him soon and hear that he is safe.”
Index on Censorship is seeking support for the release of Andrei and her partner, a petition calling for their release can be signed here.
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