On Thursday, about 60 participants gathered for a bicycle demonstration on the occasion of the Day of Freedom in Belarus to cycle from the Sachsenbrücke in Leipzig via the Honorary Consulate to the market. At the consulate, which is also the headquarters of the GRK Real Estate Group, an open letter was handed over to the Honorary Consul Steffen Göpel, which was signed on the spot by those present.
As a historian I am extremely sparing with Nazi comparisons … (Participant)
The call read as follows: “Freedom Day” is celebrated in Belarus by opponents* of the Lukašenko dictatorship as an alternative national holiday.
On August 9, 2020, the presidential elections in Belarus were massively rigged. While opinion polls predicted a single-digit result for the incumbent president, the Central Election Commission declared that the incumbent had won with a whopping 80% of the electoral votes.
Tens of thousands immediately protested against this brazen falsification. The state responded with excesses of violence in the streets and squares of the country and with systematic torture in police stations and prisons. Outrage among the population only grew stronger as a result. Around ten people were killed by the regime and its supporters, and many were injured, some of them so severely that they suffered permanent damage for life. The regime has finally discredited itself in the eyes of most people. For more than seven months, daily protests have been taking place in Belarus. The population rallied behind three key demands:
– An end to the violence and punishment for the perpetrators;
– Release of all political prisoners;
– New elections without Lukashenko.
Since the protests began in August 2020, more than 32,000 people have been arrested, hundreds imprisoned, and many already sentenced to draconian sentences. Nearly 300 people are currently recognized as political prisoners by the Human Rights Center “Vesna” (“Spring”). They are imprisoned for participating in demonstrations, shouting slogans or displaying protest symbols. Journalists have been sentenced to prison because their work displeased the regime. In many cases, the tax authorities are now being brought to bear against opposition figures, who are being tried on seemingly apolitical charges of alleged tax evasion and similar charges.
As long as the illegitimate regime of Aleksandr Lukašenko remains in power in Belarus, human and civil rights violations will continue. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, will disappear for years in prisons and camps, mistreated and humiliated.
The regime relies only on the armed forces, which must be financed and kept in line with special privileges. The funds for this come primarily from the profits of state-owned enterprises. For this reason, the Belarusian opposition is demanding that international economic contacts be frozen. Particularly German partners provide by spare part supplies and maintenance for the smooth functioning of Belarusian state enterprises and thus for a good filling of the feed troughs of the Belarusian repression organs.
In Leipzig the honorary consul Steffen Goepel, who is well-known as a real estate entrepreneur in the city, provides for good economic contacts of the domestic economy with the dictatorship.
We call on Steffen Goepel to take a public stand on the election falsifications and human rights violations in Belarus. We call on him to face the demonstrators on March 25, 2021 and receive demands.
“Very good initiative! Entrepreneur Steffen Goepel (on the right in the picture hugging a friend) represents #Lukashenko’s regime and should declare himself. #FreeBelarushttps://t.co/9Xkmxdedcb pic.twitter.com/zPyiyiHZKu
– Stefan Liebich (@berlinliebich) March 26, 2021
Sehr gute Initiative! Der Unternehmer Steffen Goepel (rechts im Bild bei der Umarmung eines Freunds) repräsentiert das Regime von #Lukaschenko und sollte sich erklären. #FreeBelarushttps://t.co/9Xkmxdedcb pic.twitter.com/zPyiyiHZKu
— Stefan Liebich (@berlinliebich) March 26, 2021