In Belarus, yellow labels distinguish political prisoners – Washington, District of Columbia
Kiev, Ukraine (AP) – Natalia Makavetskaya saw a deep scar on her wrist when she visited her son in a Belarusian prison …
Kiev, Ukraine (AP) – While visiting her son in a Belarusian prison, Natalia Makavetskaya discovered a deep scar on her tightly handcuffed wrist. She also noticed a yellow tag sewn onto her clothes.
Labels marked those imprisoned for participating in protests against dictator Alexander Lukashenko and selected them for “particularly difficult prison situations,” Makabetsukaya told The Associated Press.
“They decided that my son was inclined to radicalism and treated him accordingly,” she said in a telephone interview.
Her son Vladislau Makabetsky was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for threatening police officers with an attract stick during a clash between police and protesters in the city of Vitebsk in December. He denied the charges and said he only tried to protect the old man who was beaten by the police and had just thrown the stick dropped by one of the officers.
Makabetsky told his mother that authorities at Prison Colony No.22 near Brest on the Polish border have temporarily banned personal effects and visits. During the daily queue, he was ordered to stay away from other prisoners and say, âI tend to be radical. Detainees marked in yellow also carry out regular in-depth searches.
The 28-year-old woodcarver was one of more than 35,000 people arrested in Belarus for suppressing protests after Lukashenko was re-elected for a sixth term in a vote in August 2020. Thousands of people were violently turned on beaten by the police.
On May 23, a widespread crackdown was redirected after a Ryanair plane from Greece to Lithuania detoured through Minsk and arrested dissident journalist Raman Platasevic on board. European Union officials accused the action of aircraft piracy and imposed new sanctions on the country.
According to Belarusian human rights activists, authorities have tightened detention conditions for those who participated in protests in recent months. Many of them are marked in yellow, a practice condemned by human rights activists.
âThe yellow tag shows a direct link to the yellow Star of David for Nazi German Jews. It is difficult to understand why the Belarusian authorities did so. âIn any case, these experiments with dangers lead to the stigmatization of political prisoners by the prison authorities and other prisoners. “
Biasna says at least 460 political prisoners have been held in Belarusian prisons on criminal charges linked to protests with sentences of six months to several years.
Belarusian authorities have ignored criticism of the harsh conditions of jailed protesters. Lukashenko has repeatedly presented the protesters as clues to the efforts of a Western spy agency to destabilize Belarus and force a change of government.
In addition to Makavetskaya, three women told AP that when their sons visited in April and May, they had yellow tags on their clothes.
One of them sought to identify herself only by her first name, Variantina, for fear of reprisals from the authorities. Her son told her that she was handcuffed 24 hours a day. Computer professionals from Minsk were sentenced to four years in the first penal colony in the city of Novoporotsk.
âMy son was held in a punishment cell for days, spreading his legs wide and causing me severe pain, whispering to me that he would leave no trace,â she told AP.
Katsiaryna Barysevich, journalist for the independent news portal Tut.by, was also detained using the yellow tag.
“I’m not saying I’m broken,” Barisevic told reporters after his release. “I learned to look crazy calmly.”
Liubou Kaspiarovich, another Tut.by reporter who was jailed for 15 days last month for covering a protest-related trial, was bleached with chlorine, along with 14 other people in a twin-bed cell. He said he must have slept on a concrete floor that was still wet.
âThey woke us up several times in the middle of the night and ordered us to bring back an indictment criminal law article. Every morning we poured a bucket of chlorine on the floor, âKaspiarovich told AP. “And they put a homeless woman with lice in our cell.”
One of the first to pay attention to the harsh conditions and yellow label of political prisoners, Vitold Ashlok, died in Shukurov prison and was sentenced to five years in prison for participating in protests. He said Shukurov, 50, died of a heart attack on May 21, but his death certificate did not indicate the cause of death.
When Aza and his bandaged body were handed over to his relatives, authorities released a video after a man Ashlok allegedly grabbed his head and fell, before police entered. Opposition parties said the video had been tampered with.
Biasna’s Stephanovich questioned the official version of Ashlok’s death.
âA perfectly healthy person died suddenly while in detentionâ¦ and they bandaged and handed over the body without identifying the cause of death,â he said. “What should a person think? “
His death caused a flurry of anger.
“He died in the battle for freedom and a bright future in Belarus,” US Ambassador Julie Fisher said on Twitter. âWrongful imprisonment and a meaningless death demand accountability. ” I added.
Another prisoner tried to slit his throat with a pen in court on Tuesday after authorities threatened his family with criminal charges. Stsiapan Latypau, 41, was hospitalized and subsequently medically challenged. I fell into a coma.
The German Foreign Ministry has expressed shock and anger at the incident. “It symbolizes the desperation that Lukashenko brings to the public through the oppression and brutal violence used there,” said Maria Adebar, spokesperson for the ministry.
Relatives of human rights activists and detainees have called on the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Belarusian prisons to investigate the situation of political prisoners.
“They are cracking down and there is no way to find out the truth about what is going on behind the walls of Belarusian prisons, which carry on the worst Soviet traditions,” Biasna’s Stephanovich said.
Contributed by Vladimir Isachenkov, editor of the Associated Press in Moscow, and Frank Jordans in Berlin.
Follow all of AP’s Belarusian development stories at https://apnews.com/hub/belarus.
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