Small business activist Shumchanka serves out jail term


Small business activist Anatol Shumchanka was released from a detention center on Tuesday after serving out a five-day jail sentence.

The leader of the Perspektyva association was arrested on June 27, shortly after attending a meeting of vendors at the Zhdanovichy market on the outskirts of Minsk. Later that day, a judge of the Belarusian capital's Tsentralny District Court found him guilty of holding an unsanctioned “mass event.”

As Mr. Shumchanka exited the detention center on Akrestsina Street, he was greeted by Perspektyva members and a dozen of opposition activists, including former presidential candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyayew and opposition youth leader Pavel Vinahradaw.

Speaking to reporters outside the jail, Mr. Shumchanka expressed hope that the government would agree to a dialogue with market vendors on the introduction of Customs Union certification rules for imported clothing and footwear.

The activist linked his jailing to his role in organizing a one-day nationwide strike by market vendors last week. "We managed to organize the walkout within a very short period because representatives of the government had refused to meet with us and solve the problem in a civilized way," he said.

According to Mr. Shumchanka, shortly before his arrest he was invited by the Eurasian Economic Commission to its meeting concerning the certification rules, which will take place in Moscow in July. He said that he would be happy to attend the event.

Mr. Shumchanka warned that he would not stop his work after the jailing. "My arrest is part of Belarusian realities and my work," he said. The activist said that he had spent a total of 60 days in jail since Perspektyva's establishment a decade ago.

Mr. Shumchanka was arrested on the day when thousands of market vendors across Belarus walked off the job to protest the introduction of the new certification rules. // BelaPAN