viasna on patreon

"If you don't sign it, then your wife will go to prison, and your kids will be taken away by the children's services." Serhii Melyanets spoke about his detention

2024 2024-04-25T15:58:15+0300 2024-04-25T16:01:32+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Christian preacher and father of many children Serhii Melyanets was detained on March 19 in the Minsk City Court. He came to support political prisoner and Catholic journalist Ihar Karnei. Serhii spent a total of 25 days at Akrescina. During this time, a KGB officer came to him and threatened him with a criminal case not only against him, but also against his wife, as well as children's services taking away his seven children, and the demolition of his house. However, the man was released and managed to leave Belarus with his family. Once safe, Serhii told Viasna his story of persecution: detention in court by plainclothes officers, beating in the police department, harsh conditions at Akrescina, and threats of criminal proceedings for "treason to the state".

Serhii Melyanets with his family

"When they opened my phone, they were very happy: they found an ardent red-white-red dissident"

On March 19, the trial of journalist Ihar Karnei began in the Minsk City Court. Serhii Melyanets decided to support him, as the trial was open. Plainclothes officers were checking people at the entrance to the courtroom: they inspected the man's documents and let him through.

"I went to the trial to support and pray for my brother in Christ, Ihar. I was worried about him.

When I came to the hall, there were pro-government journalists who were filming Ihar in a cage. In the courtroom, I showed him a prayer sign, making it clear that I had come to pray.

When I left the courtroom, I was met by the same plainclothes officers and one in uniform. When they opened my phone, they were very happy: they found an ardent red-white-red dissident.

Serhii was taken out through the back entrance of the court and put in a car. It turned out that they were employees of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK).

"I think they used Ihar's trial as bait to catch those who would come. The employees were in a very good mood, thinking that they might have caught a big shot. They all looked at my phone and commented: "Oh, he can be imprisoned for this and for this!"

"My 300 rubles disappeared"

Serhii was brought to a police department to draw up a report.

"They didn't care what to charge me with, as long as they put me in jail for several days. So they drew up a report for "unauthorized picketing" on Instagram for a picture with a line "It smells of thyme!" and my poem. While they were writing the report, I stood near a bookcase with handcuffs behind my back. I asked for water, but they didn't give it to me. They began to inspect my backpack. In the process, my 300 rubles disappeared."

"During 25 days, I was only able to sleep for a couple of hours"

"As a believer, I tried to start conversations about God, Christianity, and the Bible. I have noticed that it is easier for people in such circumstances to talk about these topics. They say that there are no atheists in foxholes. And that's how it is in prison. It is very rare to meet people there who openly declare that they are unbelievers and there is no God. Everyone is thinking and starting to contemplate that there really is someone there who can stand up for one in this situation."

The man says that in the temporary detention facility, political prisoners were allowed to take a jacket with them to the cell. But not in the center for isolation of offenders. That is how, at first glance, one can understand who is who there.

"In the temporary detention facility, I once spent the night on the dirty floor on my jacket. During 25 days, I was only able to sleep for a couple of hours, and the rest of the time I constantly had some thoughts."

"He took me into an empty office and beat me up"

At the second trial, where the man was sentenced to another 12 days of detention, Serhii tried to argue with the judge, for which, after the trial, GUBOPiK employees used physical violence against him:

"After I refused to sign the second report, a GUBOPiK employee came, handcuffed me, took me into an empty office and beat me with the words: "Get rid of that attitude!" He was outraged that I had the right to protest and distract important people from work: he was talking about the witness in a mask."

"Have you worked with Viasna?"

A KGB officer came to Sergii twice. He was interrogated about his connection with human rights defenders and journalists and was demanded "confessions":

"The first time I met him, he immediately said to me: "Well, we found out everything about you. You will be jailed for 10 years or shot. You talked to journalists and leaked information. All journalists are agents, so you betrayed your homeland."

I have a special feature: I can't lie. They asked me: "Have you worked with Viasna?" I said: "I have." He asked again: "What did you tell them?" I told them: "I attended trials, wrote about them on Facebook, and gave the same information to them." The employee said that I would face criminal charges. He made me write a "confession", where he pointed out that I attended trials and passed information about them to Viasna. The employee promised that if I write such a paper, my punishment will be mitigated. He was very pleased when he left me.

And the second time he came to me with photos from my wife's phone, where she was protesting in 2020 with the Bible. He asks: "So, did you go to the protests?" I replied that I didn't. I went to the square to pray. It turned out that he wrote a confession that I allegedly went to protest actions. But I said I wouldn't sign it. Then he said that in that case my wife "will be at Akrescina with me tomorrow." While I was in detention, my house was searched. After my interrogation, an employee ordered an interrogation for her by the KGB.

In front of me, he picked up a phone and called someone: "Sviatlana Melyanets is coming soon, prepare her for the temporary detention facility." And he said to me: "If you don't sign it, then your wife will go to prison, and your kids will be taken away by the children's services in 10 days." I was shocked. But I told him: "May the Lord forbid you to do this. I can't do anything, but I believe that the Lord will be able to stop it." The employee remained silent in response. It turned out that he hadn't touched my wife. She came to him, he put a lot of pressure on her, but she wouldn't give in. Sviatlana managed to communicate with him very firmly. The employee also told me that he wasn't hard during the search, but threatened that if I did not sign the paper, they would come to my apartment with sledgehammers and turn the whole house into ruins. He was scary, and I was terrified, of course. When I returned to the cell, I thought that maybe I really should have signed it in order to somehow save my wife and house. But I didn't sign that paper, and he didn't come to me anymore."

"I shouldn't have been released"

Serhii spent a total of 25 days at Akrescina. During his release, he met a guy in the corridor who was with him in the cell of the police department.

"He was delighted and said: "Oh, Serhii, pray for me!" And there I was standing on the corridor of the center for isolation of offenders, praying for myself and for him. They returned us our things with the words: "Don't get caught again!" I was thinking, where was I going to get caught? I wish I could get out of here! They let me out the gate, and no one was waiting for me with handcuffs. I was shocked. God, thank you! And I ran."

Serhii was released on Saturday, and the next day he left Belarus with his wife and seven children. Now he plans to move to Poland and get a job there.

Support the family of Serhii Melyanets financially:

Help the large family of activist and Christian preacher Serhii Melyanets to settle in Poland

Our family consists of 9 people. That's why the sum is that big. We plan to go to Poland and settle there.

Latest news