Hogan Lovells’ Pro Bono Efforts Lead to Pardon of Detained Belarusian Opposition Leader and Campaign Aide
17 April 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. 17 April 2012 – Hogan Lovells announced today that its pro bono efforts with Freedom Now resulted in the release from prison of Belarusian opposition leader and former diplomat Andrei Sannikov under a pardon on 14 April 2012. Sannikov’s former campaign aide, Zmister Bandarenka, was released from prison on 15 April 2012. Their releases follow nearly 16 months of imprisonment on sentences that ranged from two to five years for Bandarenka and Sannokov, respectively.
Hogan Lovells partner David J. Weiner, associate Joshua J. Newcomer, and other Hogan Lovells lawyers worked closely with Freedom Now over the course of 12 months to free Sannikov and Bandarenka. Co-founded by Hogan Lovells partner Jeremy Zucker, Freedom Now is a nonprofit organization that seeks to free nonviolent prisoners of conscience around the world through legal, political, and public relations advocacy efforts. Sannikov’s lawyer in Belarus, Andrei Varvachevitch, announced his release late Saturday night.
“We are very pleased that our efforts have led to the release of two individuals who had been wrongly convicted for engaging in what was clearly and objectively peaceful political discourse,” said Hogan Lovells’ David J. Weiner.
“The release of Sannikov and Bandarenka is significant not only because it restored our clients’ freedom, but also because it shows the results that can be achieved through coordinated efforts between nonprofits and law firms to promote and restore the rights of political prisoners of conscience,” said Hogan Lovells’ Joshua J. Newcomer. “To that end, we must remain vigilant, as even now Belarus continues to imprison Mikalai Statkevich, Syarhey Kavalenka, and other political prisoners.”
Sannikov and Bandarenka had been arrested by police during the crackdown following Belarus’ presidential elections in 2010. They joined tens of thousands of Belarusians gathered in central Minsk after polls closed on 19 December 2010 for a peaceful demonstration. Sannikov addressed the protestors and urged them to remain peaceful. However, police beat many of the peaceful protesters, including Sannikov, who was arrested along with hundreds of other demonstrators. Bandarenka was arrested the following day.
Sannikov and Bandarenka were convicted after trials that failed to meet international standards for due process. Although prosecutors were unable to produce any evidence that Sannikov or Bandarenka engaged in any violence, the court sentenced Sannikov to five years in prison and Bandarenka to two years in prison.