Frenchman Jolan Viaud facing 3 to 7 years of prison in Belarus

Frenchman Jolan Viaud facing 3 to 7 years of prison in Belarus

Frenchman Jolan Viaud is under investigation for "illegal activities against firearms, ammunition and explosives" in Belarus. His family assures that the 9mm bullet in the center of the case was a gift from a Pole, and pleads the youthful mistake. A Facebook account and a kitty to support the young man were launched.

Jolan Viaud is a traveler in the soul, his family say. But his last journey was short. The 24-year-old from Hautes-Pyrénées , who was on a three-month trip across Europe, was arrested on 21 September while on the border between Ukraine and Belarus, the Gomel region.

The customs officers have found in his bag a cartridge of firearms "in operational condition, which could be used as a munition," spokeswoman of the Belarusian Investigative Committee, Yulia Goncharova, told AFP on Sunday.

"This is a gift that a Pole had given him as a souvenir during his visit to this country," says Guillaume Viaud, 29, Jolan's older brother.

"He did not really think about it and put it in a bag in the middle of tickets and other gadgets, not knowing that this Parabellum 9 mm bullet was in working condition. It's a mistake of youth."

An investigation into "illegal activities in relation to firearms, ammunition and explosives" has been opened against the Frenchman, who faces between three and seven years in prison, if convicted by the strict justice of Belarus.

His brother has created with his family a support group on Facebook and also a kitty to finance the costs of justice.

"We are a modest family, the testimonies and the help of people are warm to the heart," says Guillaume Viaud, who contacted local officials, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Embassy in Belarus to advance his cause.

"The only thing we want is for Jolan to be released. We do our utmost, while respecting Belarus. The young man was arrested while after a short stint in Ukraine, he returned to Belarus where he had already spent a few days visiting a friend in Minsk, the capital.

"It's very difficult for him to send news from his prison," says his older brother. He does not have the right to the calls. On October 5, he wrote two letters, one to his friend in Minsk and another to his family, which only arrived on October 23!"

In this letter, Jolan Viaud tells about difficult conditions of detention, while the date of the trial is still not fixed, more than a month after his imprisonment.

"A few weeks ago, we were talking about the end of November or December," says Guillaume, bewildered as his entire family.

"We are very tired, but we continue to do everything we can to get him out."