Arrested anarchist suffers Chechnya-style torture, lawyer says

2020 2020-11-19T17:06:42+0300 2020-11-19T17:09:38+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Screenshot from a video released by the Interior Ministry following Mikalai Dziadok's arrest

Screenshot from a video released by the Interior Ministry following Mikalai Dziadok's arrest

Mikalai Dziadok, blogger and journalist of the Novy Chas weekly, who describes himself as an anarchist, was arrested on November 12 near the city of Salihorsk, 120 km south of Minsk. A video released by the Interior Ministry the following day shows the humiliated and beaten activist confessing to “plotting to overthrow the government.” Dziadok’s lawyer Natallia Matskevich says she will seek prosecution for those responsible for the ill-treatment of her client.

According to the counsel, seven masked policemen broke into Dziadok’s rented apartment at about 11 pm. They tortured the activist and used pepper spray, forcing him to incriminate himself in a video confession later aired on government-controlled TV channels. The activist was then driven to Minsk, where he was tortured again and was eventually forced to give away access to his Telegram blog and encrypted information on his laptop. It wasn’t until 5 am that Mikalai was finally brought to a detention center in Akrestsin Street.

“I’ve had several clients who fled Chechnya after being tortured and were then detained in Belarus for deportation. But I never thought I would hear such stories happen in my country,” Dziadok’s lawyer said promising to file a complaint.

Ms. Matskevich says Dziadok, who is now in the pre-trial prison in Minsk, was undoubtedly gassed in the eyes and beaten so badly that one can see bruises on his face, legs and back. The lawyer who visited the activist in prison saw marks on his wrists apparently left by handcuffs.

“Given that several law enforcement officers arrested the unarmed man quite unexpectedly for him, it is not the issue of proportionality of the use of force during arrest that should be considered, but the issue of possible abuse of power and official authority,” the lawyer concludes.

Speaking of the charges Dziadok is facing, Ms. Matskevich says that little is still known. The Interior Ministry earlier said that the blogger “actively administered a radical Telegram channel, where he publicly called for participation in the riots.”

“We can conclude that the criminal charge is linked to some statements, to freedom of expression. But I don’t think any of Dziadok’s publications can objectively be assessed as calls for violent action,” Natallia Matskevich said.

In May 2011, Mikalai Dziadok was sentenced to four and a half years in prison, after he and several other anarchists were found guilty of plotting and executing a series of attacks on government buildings. Following the sentencing, Belarusian human rights organizations called Dziadok a political prisoner. He was pardoned by Aliaksandr Lukashenka in August 2015, two months before the presidential election.