Freed Swiss-Belarusian activist arrives back in Switzerland

Hersche was arrested for taking part in a an anti-government rally in 2020. The government clamped down hard on demonstrators. Keystone / Str

Swiss-Belarusian dual national Natallia Hersche landed in Zurich on Friday, after being freed from jail in Belarus.

This content was published on February 18, 2022 - 18:16

She was met at the airport by Johannes Matyassy, deputy State Secretary at the Swiss foreign ministry. Hersche was released from jail earlier, after nearly a year and a half in a Belarusian jail for taking part in anti-government protests. In Minsk, the Belarus capital, she was met by her brother and the Swiss ambassador to Belarus Christine Honegger Zolotukhin.  

The news of her release was shared on Twitter by Swiss President and foreign minister Ignazio Cassis, who thanked all who helped to secure it.  

The outcome follows “intense efforts over nearly a year and a half” by Cassis and the foreign ministry, according to a Swiss foreign ministry press releaseExternal link. Since her arrest in September 2020 and her sentencing to two and a half years in prison, representatives from the Swiss embassy in Minsk visited her 14 times.

Hersche was freed from a prison in Mogilev, in eastern Belarus, after being moved from a penal colony in Gomel, in the southeast. She was arrested in Minsk on September 19, 2020, and sentenced in December that year for taking part in anti-government protests in the Belarusian capital.

The government of Alexander Lukashenko unleashed a sweeping crackdown on post-election protests, the biggest of which attracted up to 200,000 people. Human rights activists say more than 30,000 people have been detained and thousands beaten.

In January, a Swiss journalist was also briefly arrested by security forces in the streets of Minsk.

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