8.5 years in jail for Minsker Stsyapan Latypau who attempted suicide in court as sign of protest

On August 16, Savetski district court of Minsk passed the verdict in the case political prisoner Stsyapan Latypau who earlier tried to cut his throat and wrists in the courtroom, protesting against injustice, police brutality, and torture in prison.

Stsyapan Latypau. Photo: Сцяпан Латыпаў / vk.com

Earlier, public prosecutor Uladzimir Rabau demanded the defendant be sentenced to 8.5-year-imprisonement in a medium security penal colony; today, judge Alyaksandr Volk has taken heed of the demand and given a corresponding sentence, human rights centre Viasna reports. Stsyapan Latypau will also have to pay off a fine of 8,700 Belarusian rubles.

Latypau was found guilty of running a Telegram chat, setting up a workshop for making protest symbols, and resisting police. In addition, the entrepreneur was charged with misleading customers when providing services to them. The Minsk resident pleads not guilty of any of the counts. He refused to testify in court, but he revealed the facts of torture he faced behind bars.

Stsyapan Latypau is a 41-year-old arborist (tree surgeon) and industrial climber, the director of the Belarbo company; he resided in a block of flats on Smarhouski Trakt Street. Belarusian uniformed services arrested him on September 15 in the the Square of Change (it is the place from which the murdered protester Raman Bandarenka was abducted in November). Stsyapan’s only ‘fault’ was the fact that he politely asked the officers to introduce themselves and show their IDs; his place was searched on the same day. At first, Stsyapan Latypau was accused of ‘planning to poison the security forces’, but later, the authorities ‘forgot’ about the charge and started to try Stsyapan for ‘organising actions that grossly violate public order’, ‘showing resistance when being detainedand ‘fraud on a particularly large scale’. The Belarusian human rights community recognised him as a political prisoner.

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At the June 1 hearing, the political prisoner claimed threats to his father and neighbours and unbearable torture: over 50 days in the a cell where confessions are literally beaten out. In protest against the torture, Latypau attempted to cut his throat in court; he stood on the bench so that courtroom guards could not get him, then he pierced his throat with a pen. The defendant lost consciousness, the paramedics immediately took him out of the court building. He was hospitalised, put under induced coma and got operated at Minsk Centre for Surgery, Transplantology and Hematology. But the very next day he was returned to detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk. On June 10, his trial resumed.

Shortly before the grave incident, Stsyapan Latypau said in court that the representatives of the Main Directorate for Organised Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK/GUBAZiK) visited him in jail and threatened that criminal cases would be initiated against his family, neighbours if he failed to plead guilty during the trial. They also said his relatives might face pressure and even torture if they landed up in prison.

Since April 11, the political prisoner had been kept in punitive confinement, his cellmates were people with mental disabilities, his father told Viasna in early June. According to Stsyapan Latypau, he spent 51 days in the so called ‘pressure house’, i.e. in a cell where prisoners who collaborate with the authorities create unbearable conditions for any arrestee whom the prison administration points the finger at. Those who saw Stsyapan in court on that day said he looked like as if he was badly beaten.

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