Political prisoner Vitold Ashurak dies in Shklou penal colony at age of 50

Vitold Ashurak, an activist from Byarozauka, Hrodna regional coordinator of the movement For Freedom, member of the BPF Party Seim, passed away in the penal colony in Shklou. The cause of death was cardiac arrest, Nasha Niva reports.

“There is no lack of political prisoners here,” Vitold wrote from the colony. “So there is no reason to be bored! Especially since the prison authorities issued an order to have yellow tags on our clothes so that political prisoners could be seen from afar off.”

He considered the imprisonment as a ‘high grade’ given to him for his ‘having the honour of raising the torchlight of rebellion against the dictatorship’.

The activist was detained on August 9 for a few days, and then on September 19 he was sentenced to 30 days of administrative arrest for participation in 8 rallies. He served his sentence in the Lida remand prison. However, after one day in jail he was not released and was kept on criminal charges.

Vitold was accused under Article 342 (participation in the group actions that grossly violate public order) and Article 364 (violence against a police officer) of the Criminal Code

The trial began in Lida district court on 28 December. On that day a lot of people came to support Vitold: relatives, associates and acquaintances. However, judge Maksim Filatau declared the trial closed, allegedly due to ‘the threat to state security’.

On 18 January, Filatau passed a guilty verdict in the case; he sentenced the defendant to 5 years in a minimum security penal colony and a fine of 1,000 rubles in favour of the victim, in this case the policeman.

The Belarusian human rights community recognised Vitold Ashurak as a political prisoner.

“And I did not do any shameful thing, a thing of which I would be ashamed. My conscience is clear. I did not lie, I did not steal, I did not kill. I did what seemed right, what my civic stance demanded of me. I was well aware of what consequences I might face,” Vitold wrote in one of his letters.

Belsat TV team expresses condolences to the family and friends of the deceased activist.