Political prisoner Mikalai Klimovich dies in Viciebsk colony
On May 7, Viasna human rights group learned of the death of the 61-year-old political prisoner, blogger, and public activist from Pinsk, Mikalai Klimovich, in Viciebsk penal colony No. 3. Klimovich was sentenced to 12 months in jail for reacting to a caricature of Lukashenka posted on the Russian social network Odnoklassniki. The man had a second-degree disability due to heart disease; he had suffered a stroke and underwent complex heart surgery. Despite this, the court in Pinsk sentenced him to imprisonment. Before the verdict, the blogger said he could die in prison, as he needed to take many strong prescription medications. Klimovich only lasted a little more than two months in jail. Viasna shares the story of Mikalai’s persecution.
Mikalai Klimovich was convicted on February 28, 2023, in the Pinsk District and City Court. Under Article 368 of the Criminal Code, he was accused of insulting Aliaksandr Lukashenka with a satirical image he shared on the social network. The blogger reacted with “funny” to the caricature, which then appeared in the feed of his page. During the trial, his lawyer described Klimovich’s health condition and emphasized the danger of imprisonment. Mikalai highlighted his anti-war position and its connection to his social media publications. As a result, Judge Andrei Bychyla, following the suggestion of prosecutor Illia Huzarevich, sentenced Klimovich to 12 months in a general-security penal colony, despite the activist’s second-degree heart disability. Klimovich was detained in the courtroom. He was placed in pre-trial detention center No. 6 in Baranavičy, where he was held until the appeal was heard.
Before the court, he told reporters from Pozirk that he feared dying in prison:
“Any prison sentence for me is death because I need to be under constant medical supervision and take many strong medications. I may not even survive a month.”
On April 21, the Brest Regional Court upheld the verdict. Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported that the relatives and friends of the political prisoner were concerned about his health. Shortly after, Mikalai was transferred to Viciebsk colony No. 3—they took him all the way across Belarus. Klimovich only lasted a little more than two months in prison and spent about two weeks in the colony.
In December 2022, law enforcement became interested in Klimovich’s social media activities. He was detained and placed in a temporary detention facility. The blogger had spent three days behind bars before first suffering heart problems.Police handed him over to doctors for treatment and released him until the trial. Mikalai was free until the trial, but he was summoned for interrogations.
On February 10, 2023, Klimovich was tried in an administrative case. Judge Andrei Bychyla found the blogger guilty of spreading Nazi symbols (Article 19.10 of the Code of Administrative Offenses) and fined him 111 Belarusian rubles (about $45). As BAJ reported, Mikalai did not like or share it but merely used a “funny” emoticon. Mikalai said he had no intention of spreading these caricatures and simply found it funny.
The Viasna Human Rights Center expresses its sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of Mikalai Klimovich.