The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is encouraging people to send letters of support to the more than 1,300 Belarusian political prisoners jailed by Alexander Lukashenko. Many have been imprisoned for over two years.
Describing the situation, the ministry said in a statement that political prisoners are kept in freezing, crowded and dirty cells and allowed minimal food, water, sleep and personal hygiene.
"Imprisonment involves mental and physical torture, not to mention lack of medical aid. Beatings, torture and inhumane and humiliating treatment are routine to force the political prisoner to admit to baseless charges," it wrote.
Almost all of the country's independent media has been silenced and labeled as extremists, independent journalists have been forced to flee abroad and hundreds of social media channels and blogs have also been closed, the ministry said.
Subjected to torture and mental terror behind barbed wire, political prisoners have no contact with the outside world. They can only communicate by letters.
"The people of Estonia remember what it was like to live under such a regime. We invite Estonians to write letters to Belarusian political prisoners, so they would know they are not alone. We see, notice and care about what is happening. They are not alone in their struggle," Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jonatan Vseviov said.
The Belarusian authorities often raid NGO offices and homes of human rights activists and conduct arbitrary arrests and detentions.
They accuse people of extremist actions, tax evasion, public disorder, participating in organizations without government approval, insulting state officials and treason.
Since August 2020, at least 370 organizations have closed their doors to avoid potential criminal proceedings. Authorities have terminated the activities of more than 634 organizations, including almost all human rights organizations.
You can find instructions for writing to political prisoners in Belarus here.
Last month, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said Estonia would assign an ambassador-at-large to work with the Belarusian opposition movement in exile in Lithuania.
Relations between Estonia and the Lukashenko regime have almost completely broken down in recent months after Reinsalu gave Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya a platform to speak at the United Nations General Assembly. Embassies in both countries have reduced their staff to one.
Editor: Helen Wright