Photographer Anton Surapin, who was released Friday on his own recognizance, told reporters that he was banned from leaving Slutsk, a city of 60,000 residents 65 miles south of Minsk where he lived with his parents.
The 20-year-old Surapin, a fourth-year student at Belarusian State University`s Journalism Institute, was arrested following a July 4 incident in which two representatives of Sweden’s ad agency Studio Total illegally flew a small plane from Lithuania to Belarus and dropped teddy bears containing pro-human rights messages.
Mr. Surapin, who posted pictures of the teddy bears on his website titled Belarusian News Photos, was charged by the Belarusian KGB with complicity in the “illegal crossing” into Belarusian airspace.
According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Mr. Surapin was released from the KGB detention center in Minsk at about 6:30 p.m. and driven in a car to Slutsk. No lawyer was present when he was released. To travel to Minsk, he will have to obtain a permit from KGB investigators. While in the detention center, where he spent 34 days, he received letters only from his parents.
Mr. Surapin says that he is not prohibited from using the Internet and that is why he will try to use an old computer in his Slutsk home to maintain contact. He does know what has happened to his equipment seized during the arrest.
“I was released on the first anniversary of the launch of my site and this is the best gift for me,” Anton says.
According to him, he does not know whether and when he will stand trial. “I was not told about that,” he says.
“I only posted photographs of the teddy bears that the Swedish pilots dropped. Those were not my photographs. I don’t know the Swedes. I can’t say anything more,” he said in an interview with opposition news site charter97.org. following his release.
He said that he did not know Syarhey Basharymaw, a real estate agent who is believed to have leased out an apartment to representatives of Studio Total who arrived in Belarus to take pictures of the teddy bear drop and provide assistance to the pilots in case of emergency. Mr. Basharymaw was arrested by the KGB following the flight and released on his own recognizance on Friday evening. “I learned about him from a news report on the ONT television channel. I have no idea who he is,” Anton said.
In a statement issued on Friday evening the KGB stressed that Messrs. Surapin and Basharymaw continued to be accused persons in the case, “as necessary investigative actions, including face-to-face confrontations, have not been conducted because of the refusal of the Swedish citizens to present themselves at the investigative department.”
“Final procedural decisions regarding the citizens of Belarus involved in the criminal case will be made only after the circumstances of the crime under investigation are fully clarified,” the statement said. // BelaPAN