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Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska, the director of the Watch Docs Film Festival in Belarus, has been released from prison and had charges against her dropped following an international outcry from film festivals and human rights organizations.
Hatsura-Yavorska was arrested in Minsk on April 5, allegedly for her role in organizing an underground photo exhibition celebrating Belarusian health workers. She was then placed in a detention center and accused of participating in anti-government protests, demonstrations the government of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled illegal.
She was due for a court hearing Thursday, April 15, where, if found guilty, she faced the prospect of several years in prison.
But following a public outcry from the international film community, including an open letter calling for her release signed by the Sundance, Berlin and Cannes film festivals, as well as the European Film Academy and several human rights organizations, Hatsura-Yavorska was released and authorities have dropped all criminal charges against her.
Belarus has been rocked by widespread demonstrations against the regime, which has ruled the country for decades. Protests intensified nationwide after Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in the presidential elections last August, a result many believe was falsified.
The European Union has rejected the legitimacy of the election and called for a new vote. The EU has also condemned the violent persecution of peaceful demonstrators by Belarusian authorities. According to protestor groups, since last summer more than 600 people have been charged for participating in the anti-government demonstrations, and some 400 have been convicted.
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