RELEASED-Mikalai Statkevich – Belarus

POC Mikalai Statkevich has been released!

The case of Mikalai Statkevich in Belarus:

Mikalai Statkevich was the presidential candidate for the opposition in the 2010 presidential election in Belarus. Following the elections, Mr. Statkevich joined thousands of protesters peacefully demonstrating against election fraud in downtown Minsk. He was one of hundreds of protesters arrested when police violently dispersed the protest. He was charged under Article 293.1 of the Belarus Criminal Code for “organizing mass disorder,” and convicted to six years in prison in a high-security penal colony. At trial, no proof of violent attacks during the demonstration was presented. Prior to his arrest, Mr. Statkevich played an active role in Belarus’s pro-democracy political opposition.

The penal colony authorities have claimed that he regularly violated penal colony regulations, was inclined toward violence, and liable to attempt escape. No evidence exists to support this latter claim, and his family fear that the prison authorities may be preparing to use this as an excuse if something happens to Mikalai Statkevich in prison. His communication with his family has been restricted and he has been threatened with new sanctions for violating prison rules. In July 2012, he was also placed in a punishment cell for allegedly refusing to request a Presidential pardon when asked to do so. His wife attributes the tough measures against her husband to his refusal to apply for a pardon in protest of his innocence. The violations of which he has been accused can add up to one year to his sentence under Article 411 of the Criminal Code.

In prison, he has been subject to sleep deprivation. Prison guards keep him up by shouting and kicking against the cell’s door, and screaming in the food slot every 10 to 15 minutes. He is prevented from sleeping at night so they can “catch” him sleeping during the day. Punished for “day sleeping,” he was regularly put in a punishment cell and not allowed to receive visits or phone calls from his relatives.

For more than two years, he has been kept separate to deprive him of contact with other prisoners. He is allowed only two visits a year at two hours each, when they talk by phone with a glass screen separating them. He is allowed one phone call a month.

He is often placed in a punishment cell and harassed. He receives empty envelopes stamped “this letter did not pass the censorship.” His wife states that he has not received any newspapers or books sent to him, and that the authorities want him to believe that everyone has forgotten about him.

Mykalai is due to be transferred back the penal colony on January 12, 2015 where he is due to remain until December 19, 2016. In December 2012, Mr. Statkevich was awarded the prestigious Willy Brandt prize for his political courage.