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"The whole cell heard how he was beaten." Ex-political prisoner on torture in Žodzina prison

2024 2024-06-13T15:34:54+0300 2024-06-13T15:34:55+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

To date, at least 19 political prisoners are held in the investigative prison No. 8 in Žodzina: Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Dzianis Ivashyn, Ihar Alinevich, and others. Human rights defenders do not have complete information about all political prisoners who were held in Žodzina prison. But it is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of political prisoners have passed through it. Both those prisoners who are under investigation and those who have been transferred to a prison security level are held there.

Former political prisoner Mikhail (name changed for security reasons), who was in Žodzina prison before his trial, told how its employees humiliate and torture prisoners in perverse ways.

Жодзінская турма №8. Фота Алеся Лапіцкага
Žodzina prison No.8. Photo by Ales Lapitski

Immediately upon arrival at the prison, many harmless things that did not pose a danger were confiscated from Mikhail. Mikhail's attempts to find out from the staff about the reasons for the confiscation, he received strange answers.

"It was impossible to find any logic in their actions"

"For example, they took away lump sugar. I asked why they were taking it away. They replied, "You might put this sugar on another prisoner's eyes, press, and squeeze out his eyes." When the staff reached the packaged coffee and tea during the inspection, they were also taken away. They said that I could cut someone's artery at night with a coffee bag foil.  

They told me not to ask "stupid" questions. It was impossible to find any logic in their actions."

At the same time, Mikhail was allowed to keep pencils and a pen into the cell, which potentially pose a greater danger than sugar and a bag of coffee.

"You take the coffee, but you leave the pen. If I really wanted to injure someone, I would use the pen."

"Five minutes to go fuck yourself"

According to the interlocutor, among the prison staff he came across both cruel and normal ones.

"Žodzina had a guard who, during inspections, was always interested in how we were feeling and checked if we had signs of beatings. He talked as politely as possible. Each time he left the cell after a check he said: "I'm sorry for you, but hold on." There were literally only a few such humane employees. They didn't help us in any way, but the main thing is that they didn't make it worse."

Mikhail recalls numerous examples of cruel and humiliating treatment of political prisoners by the staff of the pre-trial detention center.

"Sometimes I asked the guard in the corridor what time it was. I remember one of them replied, 'Five minutes to go fuck yourself'."

The former political prisoner says that they were forbidden to buy groceries at a prison store. But it was possible to shop in the household department without restrictions.

"There was an IT guy in the cell with us, and his wife transferred a lot of money to his account. He bought the necessary things for the whole cell: from toilet paper to T-shirts."

 "You don't have any money, so you're not allowed hot water."

In the Žodzina investigative prison, prisoners were taken to the bathhouse once a week. But there was just cold water in the shower, says Mikhail.

"We asked the staff why they didn't give us hot showers. They said, 'You don't have any money, you are not involved in work in any way, so you're not allowed hot water'."

Once, while political prisoner were washing, prison staff turned off the hot water without warning, looked through the peephole and laughed, the interlocutor recalls.

"This was the only such case. The guys realized that such bullying would continue and then washed only in cold water."

Жодзінская турма №8. Фота: БелаПАН
Žodzina prison No.8. Photo: BelaPAN

"The whole cell heard how he was beaten"

At the time of Mikhail's detention in Žodzina prison, there was a guard who had a sticker with a smiley face on his rubber baton. As other prisoners told Mikhail, this guard accompanied prisoners sentenced to death to the place of execution.

"He bullied other political prisoners. When he entered the cell, he made everyone turn away to a wall and wore a mask. As he told us himself, so that the prisoners would not accidentally meet him afterwards and take revenge."

As Mikhail says, this guard repeatedly beat Raman Ahnishchanka, a political prisoner from Brest, in the corridors of the prison.

"Roma could always respond to the insults of the security forces. Apparently, they decided to scare the most talkative one so that everyone else would be afraid. He was taken out into the corridor, and then the whole cell heard how Roma was beaten." 

Žodzina stretching

Every day, political prisoners were taken out into the corridor for a check. They were forced to spread their legs very wide. Those who did not manage were severely beaten.

"The floor in the corridor is tiled, each of the tiles is 30 centimeters wide. We were ordered to spread our legs to the width of five tiles, that is, one and a half meters. When there was not enough space between the legs, they hit the legs hard so that they would move apart." 

"Why are you standing in a European way"

During an inspection in the corridor, prisoners were ordered to stand leaning against the wall with their palms facing them with bent wrist joints. Due to the fact that it is very difficult to stand in this position, the prisoners began to lean against the wall with their fists and knuckles, says Mikhail.

"The guard noticed this and hit the guy next to me with a baton. He then told the prisoner: 'Why are you standing in a European way? You are in Belarus, stand in a Belarusian way.' That is, leaning on the wrist joints."

With a mattress on outstretched arms

Those who did not stand as the guards ordered during the inspection were forced to take a twisted mattress from the cell and hold it on outstretched arms in front of them for an indefinite time. And the prisoners stood like that until they were exhausted, Mikhail says.

"When one of the prisoners dropped the mattress during a check, he was forced to pick it up and stand again for the same time. And so it dragged on until they got tired of humiliating us."

The door to the cell was deliberately opened just a bit, and the prisoners were forced to run out into the corridor, Mikhail says. Because of this, my cellmates stumbled and fell.

"A small gap was left in the door, which made it difficult to run out for a check. There were older overweight men in the cell, it was especially difficult for them."

"Develop fine motor skills of your hands"

Every check, the guards scattered about all the rolls of toilet paper, and they completely unrolled and filled the cell. Prison staff said that forbidden things might be hidden in the paper. At the request of the prisoners not to do this, they said: "Develop fine motor skills of your hands. Roll it up again."

"We rolled them up, and the next day they scattered them again. It dragged on until the whole cell lost it and threw all the paper they unrolled into the corridor through the feeder."

After that, the inspectors immediately ran into the cell, Mikhail says. The prisoners were taken out into the corridor and beaten on the legs. But after this incident, the toilet paper story did not repeat itself.

The interlocutor says that he was forbidden to receive and send letters to everyone except relatives. Mikhail drew attention to the fact that according to the rules of the internal order, he can correspond without restrictions. "You know what your status is. You, political prisoners, are forbidden to write," the guard replied to Mikhail.

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