Frankfurt a.M. – Belarus

Nationwide raids on family members of political prisoners

The Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenkо sends his Dementors into a psychological war against his own people.

His aim is to personally punish and destroy the political prisoners – and with them the Belarusian democracy movement – with psychological terror.

The International Society for Human Rights strongly condemns yesterday’s arrests and repressions and describes Lukashenka’s increasing isolation policy as a crime against humanity. The Frankfurt-based human rights organisation also calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners.

 

Ban on sending food parcels to isolated prisons

Yesterday, families and relatives across the country were searched, interrogated and in some cases detained for trying to support their loved ones in the isolated prisons with food. In particular, those who had done so through a Belarusian exile association (INeedHelpBy), which was set up for the very purpose of providing food parcels to underprivileged political prisoners.

1415 political prisoners held in solitary confinement

Thousands of peaceful protesters in Belarus are still in jail following the bloody crackdown on the democracy movement, which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets across the country following the fraudulent presidential election in the summer.

The human rights organisation “Viasna”, founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski, who has been imprisoned since July 2021, today lists 1415 political prisoners in Belarus. The list includes 186 women, 535 young people and 48 elderly people, such as 75-year-old Natallia Taran, who was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for indirectly insulting the president.

Disenfranchisement and dehumanisation

The trials take place without real legal representation and even in the absence of the accused. The sentences are terrible. Sentences of at least 10 to 18 years’ imprisonment for the leaders of the pro-democracy movement are typical.

Prison conditions in Belarus are characterised by: inadequate equipment, medical care, hygiene products and washing facilities; overcrowding; insufficient air supply; lack of heating and hot water; day and night lighting; mistreatment by guards; threats of violence; lack of of exercise and access to fresh air; vermin in the cells and bedbugs.

Fourth death of a political prisoner this year

Four political prisoners have died in unexplained circumstances in Belarusian prisons. Vithold Ashurak, Mikalai Klimovich, Ales Pushkin and, earlier this year, 50-year-old Vadzim Khrasko.

Destruction by the KGB police state and total isolation

But that is not enough for the Belarusian dictator; his aim is to destroy the political prisoners, and with them the Belarusian democratic movement, through psychological terror. “We will get them all,” he promised the Russian president, without whom he would no longer be in power.

In his Stalinist-style police state, any opposition is nipped in the bud, even if it means wearing red and white socks, the colours of the Belarusian democracy movement.

No signs of life for more than 10 months

For the past year, Lukashenko has favoured the total isolation of political prisoners, especially the leaders of the democracy movement at the time. They are held in isolation and solitary confinement under a strict regime, denied any contact with the outside world. Their relatives receive no news of them and rely on unnamed sources in prison to pass on news to the outside world.

Yesterday, for the first time in 10 months, a supposed sign of life from the well-known and courageous Maria Kolesnikova reached the outside world. She had been taken to the medical ward by 5-6 guards and was very emaciated. In July last year, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the country’s exiled president, who is recognised in the West, received a video recording showing her husband, who had been declared dead, alive. Sergei Tikhanovsky was the actual presidential candidate who was disqualified before the summer 2020 elections and sentenced to 19.5 years in prison.

“The suffering that the sadistic dictator is inflicting on all these innocent prisoners and their families with his isolation policy can certainly be considered a crime against humanity,” says Dr Carmen Krusch-Grün, Eastern Europe expert at ISHR.

 Yesterday’s interrogations and arrests

According to Viasna, at least 84 people were searched, interrogated and in some cases detained during yesterday’s nationwide KGB raids. For example, the mother of Marina Kosinerova, co-founder of the dissident organisation Dissidentby, was interrogated for 10 hours. They wanted to know everything about her daughter in exile.

Marina Adamovich, the wife of the 67-year-old well-known former presidential candidate and democratic social politician Mikalai Statkevich, and the 76-year-old democratic activist Boris Hamaida were also detained.

 

24.01.2023