Musician and activist Ihar Bantser finally tried after 10 days of hunger strike

The trial over Hrodna musician Ihar Bantzer was recently held in a Hrodna court. About 50 people came to support him — relatives, many friends and acquaintances. About half of those who came were allowed inside. Filming was prohibited.

The trial of the musician Ihar Bantser. Photo: “Belsat”.

Before the beginning of the trial Ihar could be heard shouting from the door, but it was difficult to understand the words.

Ihar was kept in an ‘aquarium’, he was handcuffed, but he looked upright and smiled. He lost a lot of weight and was very pale.

Judge Natallia Kozel asked how Ihar was feeling. “Feeling fine. Just a minute ago the tenth day of my hunger strike began,” the musician replied.

The judge read out a petition to change the measure of restraint for Ihar and release him from custody, which Bantser wrote back on February 20. “I was sitting in the Valadarka with the sick, drug addicts and murderers. I am often confused with them. I’m not like them, I’m a rock ‘n’ roll star. I am reformed, and I am ready to prove it,” the statement said.

The judge called a 20-minute recess to decide the motion. “And they also say I’m the one doing the circus stuff,” the musician commented.

He speaks very slowly, it is clear that it is hard for him to do it.

People were told to leave the room. The mother of the musician, his friends, passing by him, asked him to start drinking water. One girl started crying, “We need you alive, you understand?”

But Ihar refused to stop the dry hunger strike.

The victim in the case is policeman Syarhei Bahdzevich, who in the darkness was able to see Ihar’s genitals behind the thong. The state prosecutor is Viktar Nichyparuk.

After the break even fewer people were allowed into the courtroom, although only a few people sat on the first two benches. Ihar’s mother folded her hands in prayerand told her son to drink water. He only shook his head in response.

The judge decided not to satisfy the motion of the musician and to keep him in custody “so as he would not escape prosecution”. For the third time the witnesses that Bantser insisted on summoning did not come to the court session.

On the second day of the trial the musician said that he approached the policeman and asked if he could dance in front of the police car, and the policeman said yes. The judge decided to bring the policeman to court, and the next hearing was scheduled a week later, for March 18.

“I’ll make it to Monday, and then I don’t know,” Bantser commented on the decision.

This is what the musician looked like on the third day of his hunger strike. Photo by Mikalai Kuleshevich, friend of Ihar Bantser.

What the musician was detained for

Ihar Bantser was detained on 20 October and taken from his own apartment in the morning. The reason was one of the musician’s street performances: at night on September 5th Ihar was dancing in front of the police car only wearing a thong.

A criminal case under article 339 of the Criminal Code for hooliganism was openeded; Bantser faces up to 3 years in jail. His trial began on March 3, at which he went on a dry hunger strike in protest against political persecution.

After his arrest the musician was thrown into solitary confinement in Hrodna prison. After some time he was forcibly taken for psychological examination to Navinki hospital, after his return to the prison cell he spent two weeks in solitary confinement. He was deprived of any contact with relatives and friends.

Friends of Ihar Bantser Liosha and Masha. Photo: Belsat

Ihar Bantser is 40 years old, he is the frontman of a punk band “Mister X” from Hrodna. He is a vegetarian, does not drink alcohol, does Thai boxing, has anti-fascist and anti-racist views.

Ihar actively joined the protests after the August 9 elections. At first he took part in actions to support the anarchist movement and its activists, then began holding personal performances. For this he was repeatedly detained by the police. For example, to one of the court sessions in September he came in pink clothes with a pink flag to show that his detentions, those courts he had attended before, and in general the entire Belarusian judicial system is a farce. The musician was arrested on the porch of the court building by riot police.

During his first detention Ihar went on hunger strike. He was beaten twice, but in the end he was released after 72 hours of detention. On August 24, Bantser was arrested along with other anarchist and anti-fascist demonstrators for participating in a peaceful protest. He received 10 days in jail, the rest received 7. Ihar once again went on hunger strike.

He spent a total of 18 days behind bars between August and October 2020 and was fined.