Vitsebsk: Political prisoner, hunger-striker Ihar Bantser placed in punitive confinement

Activist and musician Ihar Bantser. Hrodna, 15 May 2021. Photo: МК / Belsat

Hrodna musician and activist Ihar Bantser has been put in the punitive isolation ward for ten days for ‘violating the rules’.

According to our information, the administration of the correctional facility in the city of Vitsebsk where Ihar Bantser is serving his term, has stepped up pressure upon him this week. For example, the reason for one of the reprimands was that he was ‘badly shaven’. There were open threats that the musician might face issues and go to a penal colony.

It is known that other political prisoners who turned down pro-regime activist Yury Vaskrasenski‘s offer to write pardon petitions to Alyaksandr Lukashenka have faced increased pressure in recent days as well.

In October 2020, Ihar Bantser was detained and taken into custody. The reason was one of the street performances he staged: on the night of September 5, Ihar put off his underwear and danced in front of a police car. A criminal case was opened against him under Article 339 of the Criminal Code (‘hooliganism’).

After the arrest, the musician was placed in a one-man cell in Hrodna prison. A bit later, he was taken to the Republican Scientific and Practical Centre for Mental Health in Minsk and forced to undergo a psychiatric examination. Upon returning to the prison, he served two weeks in solitary confinement. The Hrodna resident was deprived of any contact with his relatives and friends.

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Ihar Bantser refused food and water on March 3. On that day, he stood trial; during the hearing, Ihar was holding posters with the inscriptions ‘Hunger Strike’ and ‘There Is No Justice’.

In mid March, Belarusian human rights activists recognised Ihar Bantser as a political prisoner.

On March 19, a local court passed a verdict in the case of Ihar Bantser, who had been on a dry hunger strike for 16 days. Judge Natallya Kozel took heed of the prosecution’s demand and sentenced Bantser to 1.5 years of restriction of liberty over ‘hooliganism’. He was released in courtroom under the written pledge not to leave the country. The court also ruled to take into account the five months he had spent in custody, one day in jail is to be equal to two days of being under the restriction of liberty.

In June, Bantser was sent to Vitsebsk open-type correctional facility Nr 9.

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