Belarus’ Supreme Court of Justice of Belarus has opened a civil case threatening to close down the country’s PEN Centre.
Led by Nobel Prize-winning writer-in-exile Svetlana Alexievich, the writers’ association was informed of the move via an official letter on 22 July. In a Kafka-esque scenario, the letter invited members to give testimony to defend the group at a trial which had already taken place two days earlier.
The PEN Centre’s financial accounts were frozen on 19 July, just days after the association’s headquarters were searched by police.
The case is part of a wave of state repression against Belarus’ non-governmental groups and media, which has intensified over the past month. Both civil society groups and charities have been targeted by raids and court cases, including those with no political angle to their work. The crackdown comes almost a year after pro-democracy protesters began to rally against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, after he was elected to a sixth term in office in a vote widely considered to be rigged.
PEN is an international network of writers defending free speech and intellectual cooperation across the world. Among the members of PEN Belarus, which organises workshops, prizes, and residencies, are Victor Martinovich, Natallia Babina, and Adam Hlobus.