The family of Japanese artist Daichi Yoshida who spent almost two years in Belarusian penal colonies arrived in Minsk. On May 22, he was released, and the family was looking forward to returning to Japan. Belsat.eu has interviewed Daichi’s mother and brother.
Daichi Yoshida flew from Kyiv to Tokyo with connection flights at the airports of Minsk and Abu Dhabi. Previously, he was invited to the mango festival in Odessa. In Kyiv, the artist purchased in the antiques store various pieces of weapons, made before 1945. He claimed that the security service at the airport in Kyiv checked and photographed all the pieces of weapons that were in his checked in baggage and allowed him to fly. In Minsk, Daichi Yoshida was detained, and in April 2017 he was sentenced to 4 years 6 months of imprisonment for illegal transportation and transfer of firearms across the state border of the Republic of Belarus.
According to the family, the protocol of detention was written in Russian, no translation into English or Japanese were offered to the foreign citizen.
“Some mysterious guy phoned and said he was a lawyer, but failed to go into detail. Panic came first. My mother called the embassy in Minsk, and they confirmed the fact. There were so many detailes, and she was not sure what information was true. That situation confused her, we were panicking” his brother Seyo says.
Friends and relatives were shocked when they learned about the arrest of Daichi in Belarus:
“In Japan, such things are absolutely impossible! Finding out about Daichi, many Japanese people got negative impression about Belarus.”
Every time Mrs Yoko Yoshida wanted to visit the son, she had to obtain a written permit via a prosecutor and the embassy. In total, she was allowed to see him ten times.
“The worst prison was in Zhodzina. My brother said 15 persons were put in a cell for ten. The prisoners had to lie on iron beds, they were short of mattresses. The cell was full of cockroaches,” Sayo said.
“After the detention the son spent a week in hospital, he had a stomach flu. In prison he also had health problems because of insanitary conditions,” the mother added.
The fate of the artist became widely known after Russian blogger Alyaksandr Lapshyn, who happened to be kept in one cell with the Japanese artist, wrote about his case.
To bring Daichi’s case into the public eye, his family founded Support for Daichi community in social media.
“The best part of supporters were Belarusians. They realised he had found himdelf in an unfair situation. The people said warm words, sent food to my brother, wrote to him,” Sayo says.
The family appealed to the Belarusian president twice. In conversation with Belsat, Ms Yoshida stated that the order to reduce his term was given by Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Recently, there was published a decision of the Supreme Court’s Judicial Collegium of May 4 to change the verdict for the Japanese citizen due to the ‘excessive severity of punishment’.
“This was the president’s decision,” Yoko Yoshida said.
On May 22, Daichi was released from Vitsba-3 penal colony and taken to the migration department in the city of Vitsebsk. The family intended to meet with him at the passport checkpoint at the airport and then fly to Tokio via Warsaw.
Another two resonant stories of arrests of foreign nationals have recently happen in Belarus.
Earlier, Homiel region court heard a criminal case of another foreigner – French citizen Jolan Viaud, who was сharged with smuggling firearms and trafficking of prohibited substances. The prosecutor accused Jolan Viaud of intentionally carrying a live cartridge, which he had imported from Lithuania. He was also accused of the fact that the cartridge was found by customs officers in the personal inspection room when Jolan was leaving Belarus. Mr Viaud said that he specifically walked into the ‘red corridor’ to present his belongings and the souvenir cartridge to the inspector. On November 20, Viaud was acquitted and freed in the courtroom.
In 2017, British citizen Alan Paul Smith got a two-year prison term for organizing illegal migration. His relatives are also seeking support in social networks and going to appeal to Lukashenka.
Katsyaryna Andreyeva, belsat.eu