Natallia Hersche, who is currently being held in a closed men’s prison in Mahiliou, embarked on another hunger strike on January 30, RFE/RL reports with reference to the political prisoner’s brother Henadz Kasyan. Natallia, who is a citizen of Belarus and Switzerland, has been behind bars for over a year.
According to him, the conditions created for Natallia Hersche in prison are nothing torture. He says that although it is very cold in her cell, warm boots were taken from the woman.
“Belarusian radio is turned on up to eleven in Natallia’s cell from 6 am to 10 pm. She is in the cell all the time, except for an hour’s walk, and for her this radio is unbearable. Natallia asked to turn the sound down or switch the radio off, but she has not received a positive answer,” the brother said.
Natallia also complains about the quality of food; it is much worse than that in the women’s penal colony in Homiel, where she was being kept before. In addition, the woman was not allowed to keep a diary and was barred from buying a notebook in the shop.
On 7 December 2020, Natallia Hersche was sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment in a penal colony for removing a balaclava from a riot police officer during a protest rally on September, 19. Natallia had been living in Switzerland for many years, but in 2020 she could not remain indifferent to the events at home and flew to Minsk. At one of the women’s marches, she was detained and sentenced to 15 days in jail. Then a criminal case for resisting a police officer with the use of violence was opened.
When colony administration made attempts to trample over her rights, Natallia started hunger strikes. In addition, she was repeatedly placed in punitive confinement and a cell-type room for refusing to sew uniform clothes for Belarusian policemen.
In the autumn of 2021, it became known that the authorities decided to transfer her from the Homiel-based women’s penal colony to a closed prison in Mahiliou, where the conditions of confinement are harsher.
Natallia was asked to write a pardon petition to Alyaksandr Lukashenka three times, but she flatly refused again and again, insisting on her being innocent. A day earlier, it was reported that Switzerland might send its envoy to Belarus and hand over credentials to Lukashenka. According to the Swiss media outlet Der Bund, such step may be linked to country’s desire to help political prisoner Natallia Hersche.