Pavel Sapelka: “Self-inflicted injuries and hunger strike is the only "peaceful" way to protest in prison"
Mikalai Autukhovich cut his stomach while serving his term in prison in Hrodna, the website of the Platform Innovation human rights NGO said in the morning of September 19.
The information about the self-inflicted injury referred to a “confidential source”, saying that Autukhovich did this "in protest against openly humiliating treatment by the prison administration."
This was not the first attempt of the prisoner to attract attention in such a desperate way.
Convicted in May 2010 to 5 years and 2 months in prison for illegal actions with firearms, ammunition and explosives, the entrepreneur started a hunger strike in April 2010 to demand medical care for prosthetic teeth. The hunger strike gained much public attention and lasted until July 16. Autukhovich lost 35 kilos.
In December 2011, it was reported that the prisoner of penal colony No. 5 in Ivatsevichy, Brest region, cut his wrists. According to information received by the media, Autukhovich was placed in a cell-type room for certain violations, which could be interpreted by him as pressure.
According to "Platform", in September 2013, while in Hrodna prison, Autuhovich again faced a new punishment that deprived him of the possibility of receiving parcels, meeting with relatives in the amounts provided for other inmates."
Ej.by contacted Pavel Sapelka, the lawyer who defended Autukhovich during the investigation and the trial.
Noting that he “knows just as much as the journalists” about the incident in Hrodna prison, Pavel Sapelka said that he had not contacts with Autukhovich, "Our correspondence was interrupted, the letters do not reach the destination anymore."
However, the lawyer does not rule out the possibility of another self-injury by Autukhovich.
"Attempts to slit one’s wrists or cut the stomach are minor injuries that do not cause significant harm to human health. This is a relatively "peaceful" protest against the actions of the prison administration," says Mr. Sapelka.
Author of a monitoring on the situation in the prisons of Belarus, prepared in the spring of this year, Sapelka repeatedly addressed the issues of detention of prisoners, but he does not possess any information about this kind of "peaceful" protests.
"Bodily injuries to prisoners is classified information. The prison administration does not share such statistics. Moreover, it is not known whether it exists at all," says the expert.
It remains to note that the demonstrative suicide attempts committed by prisoners out of protest are viewed as violation of prison rules and are subject to disciplinary actions. Typically, this means solitary confinement.