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Festival director jailed in Belarus, Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska, released – Deadline

Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska, director of the Watch Docs Film Festival in Belarus, has been released from prison and the charges against her were 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 a clandestine photo exhibition celebrating health workers. She was first fined 700 Belarusian rubles for “protesting the police” and placed in a detention center in Minsk. Organizations such as 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 to be tried Thursday April 15 after the maximum of 10 days of detention, with charges of “fundraising for the protests” planned. Her relatives feared that she could face several years in prison. However, after a wave of widespread support from the international community, which has seen parties, including Sundance and Berlin, issue statements calling for his release, Deadline can confirm that she has been released and, at this time, is not facing any criminal charges.

Film festivals and human rights organizations demand release of jailed Belarusian festival director Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorska

Volodymyr Yavorski, Hatsura-Yavorska’s husband, was forced to flee Belarus and now lives abroad with the couple’s children. Deadline sources say the authorities told him to leave the country or face prison himself. Yavorski is also a human rights activist and the founder of the Ukrainian human rights film festival Docudays UA. It is understood that he will not be able to return to Belarus for a period of 10 years.

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

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