Elderly oncology patient gets 20 days in jail over reading book in Belarusian on train

On March 2, Partyzanski district court of Minsk sentenced 66-year-old Halina Hulyankova to 20 days of administrative arrest, Radio Svaboda reports.

A few days before, the woman was reading a book by prominent Belarusian writer Vasil Bykau when going on the train together with other pensioners. Now she is in the notorious detention centre on Akrestsin Street. The woman was accused of ‘participating in an unauthorised mass event’ and ‘disobedience to police officers’.

Halina Hulyankova pleaded not guilty. According to her 31-year-old son Maksim, when the senior got off the train, a man who looked like a fisherman walked up to her on the platform.

“He grabbed my mother by the hand and said: ‘Go along.’ Mom was confused, she followed him. The man turned out to be a local police officer, he took her to a special vehicle. My mother did not resist. The witness who appeared in court under an alias claims that Halina Hulyankova called on people on the platform to take some actions insulting the government and waved her hands. My mother says that the witness was lying; he is not the person who detained her,” Maksim told Svaboda.

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Despite Hulyankova’s requests, judge Mikhail Makarevich did not give his consent to showing CCTV footage in court.

“She asked the judge whether she would have to serve another 17 days [she spent there three days awaiting her trial – Belsat]. The judge said she would, wished her all the best and left. Such indifference to people is appalling <…> The first thing my mother asked the judge was whether he considered the situation as ‘normal’ when an elderly woman with a sore back had slept on the floor within three nights. But he answered that that issue was beyond his scope,” the son said.

Halina Hulyankova has a sore back and a bum leg, she has to walk with a cane. The elderly woman is also an oncology patient; her thyroid was removed.

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