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Political prisoner Natallia Hersche to be sent to maximum-security mail prison

2021 2021-09-29T17:20:45+0300 2021-09-29T17:23:07+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Natallia Hersche in the courtroom on December 7, 2020

Natallia Hersche in the courtroom on December 7, 2020

Political prisoner Natallia Hersche will serve the remainder of her 2 ½-year sentence in a maximum-security prison, after spending nearly 12 months in a general-security penal colony, RFE/RL’s Belarus service learned from Natallia’s brother Henadz Kasiyan.

Later it was reported that the woman would be transferred to prison No. 4 in Mahilioŭ. It is a male prison, but there are no separate women’s prisons in Belarus.

The transfer was ordered on September 24 by the Čyhunačny District Court of Homieĺ, which supported a request to stiffen imprisonment conditions filed by the administration of penal colony No. 4.

The case of Natallia Hersche, who holds a dual Swiss-Belarus citizenship, was considered by judge Mikalai Krupadziorau. The hearing took place in the women’s penal colony, where Natallia is serving her term.

Overcrowded and violent: what awaits Belarusian protesters in prison

Belarus’ penitentiaries differ in fundamental ways from the prisons of “old” Europe. The majority were established during the Soviet period. Today’s penitentiaries occupy the same sites, and in some cases, the same buildings as their gulag predecessors. The basic building-blocks of the Soviet system of prisoner management – the principles of collectivism, militarism and correction through labour – have carried through to the present day.

Hersche’s brother says he only received one letter from her in the last four months.

During her imprisonment, Hersche has been repeatedly penalized for refusing to sew uniforms for security officers. In particular, she spent nearly two months in a punishment cell.

According to Natallia’s brother, the prisoner has been approached three times by the prison authorities who tried to force her sign a pardon petition to Lukashenka.

“Natallia rejected all of them, because she considers herself innocent,” Henadz Kasiyan said.

On December 7, 2020, Natallia Hersche was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for resisting a police officer (Part 2, Article 363 of the Criminal Code). On September 19, during an all-women protest in central Minsk, the 51-year-old Hersche tore a balaclava from a riot policeman. Hersche pleaded not guilty. The country’s key human rights groups insist on her immediate release.