Amnesty International: Youth leader faces longer prison sentence
Zmitser Dashkevich, a prisoner of conscience in Belarus, is facing another year in prison for allegedly violating prison rules. He has spent almost his entire sentence in punishment cells.
Zmitser Dashkevich, leader of the youth opposition movement Young Front, is serving his original sentence in the prison colony Glubokoe, northwestern Belarus, where he was transferred on 27 September 2011. This week Amnesty International learned that the administration of the prison colony has forwarded his case to the Investigation Committee of the Republic of Belarus. The Investigation Committee will now decide whether there is enough evidence in order to open a new criminal case against Zmitser Dashkevich under Article 411of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (“deliberate disobedience to the correctional institution administration”). In response, Zmitser Dashkevich wrote a letter to the head of the colony saying that he knowingly refuses to comply with certain requirements of the prison administration, as he considers them to be illegal.
Zmitser Dashkevich was sentenced to two years in a labour colony on 24 March 2011 for alleged assault under article 339 (“hooliganism”) on 18 December 2010, the day before the election. Amnesty International believes the charges against him are unfounded and that the charges were fabricated in order to prevent him taking part in the demonstration on 19 December 2010. Since his conviction in March 2011, Zmitser Dashkevich has repeatedly been exposed to a pressure from the prison administration. By September 2011, he had been placed in a punishment cell eight times, and he has spent most of his time since then in the punishment cell. Conditions are particularly harsh in such cells: prisoners are allowed no bedding, the temperature during the winter often falls to 15 degrees Celsius, and they are allowed no visitors or correspondence. In September Zmitser Dashkevich was offered the chance to apply for a Presidential pardon if he admitted his guilt, but he rejected the offer. Zmitser Dashkevich is considered to be a “malignant violator” of the prison rules and he is not allowed to have family visits. The continuing harassment of Zmitser Dashkevich for allegedly violating prison rules appears to be intended to put physical and psychological pressure on him.
Please write immediately in Belarusian, Russian or your own language:
- Remind the Belarusian authorities that Zmitser Dashkevich is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his human rights and that he should be released immediately and unconditionally;
- Remind the Belarusian authorities that they have a duty to protect the physical and psychological wellbeing of those in custody;
- Call on the Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment of Zmitser Dashkevich.