Why Mock at Participants of Halloween Celebration?
The youth activists Andrei Kim, Tatsiana Lashkarova, Yury Shalin and Valiantsin Sakalouski were arrested on 21 October for celebrating Halloween in Minsk. They were charged with ‘public moral’ offense.
After Andrei Kim was passed a sentence, a 7 days arrest, he announced a hunger strike together with his friend Valiantsin Sakalouski who had been sentenced to 10 days of arrest. Yesterday Kim and Shalin were released. The youth activist Andrei Kim told the Charter’97 press-center about their detention during an innocent masquerade, and about the conditions of the remand prison in Akrestsin Street.
- Andrei, how was the detention conducted?
- We have made arrangements to meet near the Central department store to celebrate Halloween. At 7 p.m. 31 October we bought paint and brushes in the store, somebody brought bandage gauze. We started to make up, wound bandages, because it was Halloween. Strangely enough the reaction was rather positive. We had been asked to make a picture with us five times, shop assistants were laughing. We even asked whether we were interfering. They said that there was no problem. By the way, we came to the Central department store because it was raining outside. We planned to dress there and then stroll along the avenue.
In half an hour we noticed that we were shadowed by policemen. In some time when we finished preparing, policemen approached us and asked to go out. I remember shop assistants asking why they were detaining us. And policemen answered that we were disturbing work of the shop assistants. The shop assistants tried to defend us and said they had no complaints. But nevertheless the police showed us out and started to check the documents. They managed to check the documents of 5 persons. Then a press photographer, Yaraslau Stseshyk, contributing to Nasha Niva, arrived. He started taking photos. The policemen shouted at him and said that he had no right to do it. As a result, police reinforcement got there and snatched the passports of the four of us and of the journalist.
- How did the police treat you?
- At first, we thought it was a ridiculous mistake, probably, they didn’t know what to do. We were taken to Tsentralny district police department and then – to Tsentralny district public law department, where the reports were drawn up. The official reason of the detention was that we looked like criminals. Then it became known to us that investigator Karalkou, who was drawing up the report, had said to our parents and human rights activists that we allegedly were drunk and were using obscene language and organized hellbender in the shop. The reports were drawn under article 17.1 of the Administrative Code – ‘petty hooliganism’. In other words, it was hooliganism expressed by disrespect to society. I have never heard such a formulation before.
Then we were guarded to the district police department again, where we spent night. They treated us rather cruelly. We were insulted, they used obscene words. We were allowed to get only water. They didn’t give us food. We were five in a cell sized 1.5 by 2 meters, in the so called a ‘glass’ – three of us and two men arrested for a theft. Tatsiana Lashkarova was put into another cell. The benches to sleep were very narrow – 30 cm, naturally, we couldn’t lay on them.
At 12 p.m. we were guarded to the Savetski district court. We didn’t eat all this time. They didn’t allow us to leave the car, but we saw through the bars, how many people came to support us. Then it became known to us that it was written in the report that we had unrolled bandage painted red, laid them on the counter and hadn’t react to the remarks of shop assistants. The judge sent the report for revision and told them to search for witnesses. We weren’t let out of the car and were guarded back.
We were kept the whole day in the police department. We hadn’t eaten for already 2 days. Then we were returned to the court. The judge delayed the trial till Friday, 2.30 p.m. But the policemen didn’t let us go! They said it was a personal order of deputy chief of Tsentralny district police department Satsiuk. When I refused to go with them they called for reinforcement, about 20 policemen with machine guns, it looked tremendous… Then we obeyed.
During the search in the department, before we were sent to jail in Akrestin Street, they tried to get off my cross. I said I was a Christian and I didn’t want to give it. They pulled me to the corner, threw on the ground, two policemen sit on me, handcuffed me by force.. and tore my cross off.
They gave the cross back only in the jail on my demand. I know that I have a right to wear pendant cross in a prison.
- How was the trial held?
- It was long – since morning till evening. After the first sentence to Tatsiana Lashkarova we understood, they would arrest us. Because the lawyer said on the trial the accusations had nothing common with what the witnesses said. The assistants of the Central department store said in written evidence we hadn’t disturbed anybody.
In spite of the evident innocence, Tanya was given 5 days, Yura Shalin and me - 7 days each, Valik Sakalouski – 10 days. We were shocked. We didn’t expect such unlawfulness. I take it for marasmus. But I understand that the judge wanted to justify the absolutely unlawful actions of the police.
After the sentence was read, Valik Sakalouski and me declared a hunger-strike, and we were taken to the jail in Akrestin Street.
- What can you say about the conditions of detention in the jail?
- Valik Sakalouski felt bad yet in the police department. From Akrestin Street he was sent to resuscitation with pancreatitis. As soon as I embarked a hunger strike, I was put in overcrowded cell - there were 11 people. It was very cold. I was under great pressure. Of course, my cell mates respected me. But when the chiefs came on Monday, I was called to them 6 or 7 times. They pressed me, threatened they would feed me by force, said my parents would have problems. Frankly speaking, I don’t know what caused such their reaction… It was very exhausting, because I was on hunger strike. I was afraid that they would detain me just after release and accuse on a new article, as it had happened with democratic activist Pavel Yukhnevich.
- How did you pass 7 days of hunger strike?
- I would say, bad. I eat very little now, try to stop my fast. It’s difficult to walk – I feel faint. But there is nothing serious.
- Why it was you who were detained at the Halloween?
- Probably because we announced our action on the Internet. The authorities are afraid of any way of how the youth organize themselves. The police violated the law so seriously when detaining us that they understood it would be difficult to explain why they had kept us for 48 hours in the police department without food and treated us as if we weren’t human beings…