In late March, state-run media reported about dozens of arrestees over the White Legion case and their arsenal of weapons and explosives. Such news items made Belarusians belive there would be a number of high-profile trials and new political prisoners. But the story of the patriots has had an unexpected turn; criminal charges for the alleged ‘preparation for participation in mass riots’ started to be dropped.
Last week, criminal proceedings against Young Front activists Syarhei Palcheuski, Zmitser Dashkevich and Raman Vasilyeu were dismissed. Another freed defendant, Syarhei Kuntsevich, claims he was subject to electric torture in detention facility Nr 1 in Minsk.
“I believe that the spring street protest wave drove the country’s leadership mad and they fabricated the case to find scapegoats and show other protesters what might happen to them,” Young Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich says.
On March 21, Belarus president Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that ‘armed militants’ who were trained and instructed in Belarus, Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania had been detained.
By the way, one of the camps was located not far from [the Belarusian towns of] Babruysk and Asipovichy. The other camps were in Ukraine and, if I am not mistaken, somewhere in Lithuania and Poland. The funds [for them] were sent through Poland and Lithuania to us [Belarus]. We have just detained a few dozen militants who were up to an armed provocation,” he stated.
“From the very beginning has been thinly veiled. The regime created it to have a trade-off with the West,” political analyst Uladzimir Matskevich says.
Two pre-trial prisons of Minsk, the KGB prison and the Interior Ministry’s jail, continue to hold 14 people accused of ‘preparing riots’, some of them were charged with ‘establishing an illegal armed group’. According to unconfirmed information, they may be tortured and drugged.
On June 7, Belarusian human rights organizations published a joint statement calling for immediate release of all persons arrested in the ‘rioting and armed group case’ after reports of torture in KGB prison.