Minsk activist Yuliya Syamenchanka gets 14 days in jail, confinement conditions are appalling

Zvyano activist Yuliya Syamenchanka. Photo: Таццяна Гацура-Яворская/facebook

In the course of Monday’s court hearing, Yuliya Syamenchanka, an activist of the Belarusian public association Zvyano, managed to reveal the details of her detention that took place on December 3, Tatsyana Hatsura-Yavorskaya, the director of the NGO and a human rights activist, said on Facebook.

At about 7.30 am, the representatives of the notorious GUBAZiK/GUBOPiK (Main Department for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption) came to her apartment, where a search was carried out. Then Yuliya was taken to the department’s office as the officers were seeking to get some testimony from her. The girl refused to give them in the absence of a defence lawyer.

Later she was taken to Leninski district police department of Minsk, where a protocol was drawn upon her. Notably, the document reads that Yuliya Syamenchanka came there at her own will, then started shouting and using foul language. She was placed in the infamous detention centre on Akrestsin Street. According to information from her cellmate who was released over the weekend, Yuliya was kept in a two-man cell along with nine other women. There were no mattresses, hygiene items and other essentials.

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On December 6, she was found guilty of ‘petty hooliganism’ and sentenced to 14 days in jail.

Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorskaya believes that the authorities might be exerting pressure on Yuliya Syamenchanka and create unbearable conditions for her behind bars in order to extract some evidence in the criminal case against Zvyano activists who are suspected of ‘organising and preparing actions that grossly violate public order’ (Article 342 of the Criminal Code). The investigators must have failed to find any proof of their being involved in the crime, she added.

In late April, Zvyano activists, who staged The Machine Is Breathing, and I Am Not, the exhibition praising Belarusian medical professionals’ commitment, were taken into custody. The show included artistic and documentary projects telling about the challenges faced by Belarusian doctors, i.e. the fight against the coronavirus in the conditions of silence and their work amid the unprecedented police violence during the 2020 post-election protests.

‘Machine Is Breathing, and I Am Not’: Police detain organisers of exhibition dedicated to medics’ hard work