‘Violating rules’: Court orders to transfer activist Ihar Bantser from correctional facility to penal colony

Іhar Bantser. Hrodna, 15 May 2021. Photo: МК / Белсат

As reported earlier, the administration of Vitsebsk-based open-type correctional facility Nr 9, where political prisoner Ihar Bantser was being kept, was seeking to place him in a penal colony. Bantser was accused of repeatedly violating the rules of serving his sentence.

On September 29, judge Dzyanis Alyakseyenka ruled to send Bantser to a penal colony, he is to spend there one year and 20 days. At the moment, the political prisoner is being held in Vitsebsk pre-trial detention centre.

Shortly before the trial, Bantser managed to inform Belsat that he did not count on the court’s leniency.

According to our own information, the authorities fault Bantser for six episodes. Among them there are such ‘grave’ violations as ‘ asleep in a chair’ and ‘failing to shave himself’. The administration believes that such acts may be used as a reason for replacing the restriction of liberty by real imprisonment. In turn, Ihar considers the measures being taken by the administration as political pressure. “I refused to sign a petition for pardon,” he told Belsat.

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In mid September, Ihar Bantser, a punk rock musician and activist from Hrodna, was released from a punitive unit after spending a total of 40 days in complete isolation. The man had no right to receive food parcels there as well.

The first ‘disciplinary’ term was imposed on Ihar in early August. At that time, The prison dministration stepped up pressure upon him. 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 faced increased pressure as well.

Then he got another three 10-day terms in isolation ward; for the last 19 days, Bantser was on a hunger strike, protesting against illegal actions taken against him. After the release, he had health issues, but the administration of the detention facility did not call for medical assistance so that the musician could safely quit hungerstriking.

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’).

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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.

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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