The Belarusian authorities have never stopped exerting pressure on Mikalai Statkevich; even an ordinary letter of support means much to a prisoner, Maryna Adamovich, the wife of the imprisoned politician, said in an interview with Belsat.
Mikalai Statkevich is the last 2010 presidential candidate whom the Belarusian regime is still keeping in prison. The sentence given to Mr Statkevich in 2011 was one of the toughest: six years of imprisonment in a maximum-security penal colony. The reason might be explained by the fact that in his election speech Mikalai Statkevich addressed to the current president demanding ‘to give back all that you have stolen’. The authorities are trying to embitter Statkevich’s life even in prison putting him to a disciplinary cell or making him share a ward with an AIDS sufferer. However, the former presidential candidate keeps mantaining his innocence and refuses to ask Belarus president Lukashenka for pardon.
In January, 2015 the imprisoned politician was transferred from Mahiliou prison No 4 to Shklou penal colony No 17.
Why and what way are they putting pressure on Mikalai Statkevich?
Frankly speaking, the pressure on Mikalai has never been interrupted. They have always treated him extremely badly and repeatedly tried to break his will, to make him sign a petition for mercy. But after he spent three years in prison and returned to Shklou penal colony, it seems like deja vu all over again. Eight reports were drawn up for one week; but punishments were imposed only under three of them.
[The punishment is] three days in a disciplinary cell and transfer to a ward-type room for two months. In addition, they are trying to hit where it hurts: he has been deprived of the right to have short-term and long-term visits by family and to receive a food parcel.
As of Friday, no decisions were made over the rest five reports, no punishments were imposed. It is difficult to say what else the prison administration is capable of.
Do you think such actions are related to the upcoming presidential election?
It cannot be ruled out, but I’d rather link it to the much-anticipated liberalisation and improvement of our relations with the EU. Sticking to their own guns is the grim reality of our time…
What does Mikalai think of the 2015 election? What are his plans?
He repeatedly wrote on this subject, he had the opportunity to voice his opinion. He has always been a consistent supporter of unity when there is no choice and the imitation of the expression of people’s will happens. Taking into account a threat of Russia’s aggression Mikalai says that they [the opposition] had better join forces and put forward demands to the authorities: if you state sovereignty is just as important as it is for us, then let us work together. But it means that repressive legislation should be repealed and a moratorium on illegal amendments to the electoral law should be imposed. And further actions of the opposition would depend on the authorities’ response: democratic forces’ full participation in the campaign or choosing some other forms of protest if it becomes obvious that the authorities are not going to change. Maybe even a boycott.
Mikalai is sticking to this [the strategy above] and he believes that the demonstration of unity is the only decent position under the existing circumstances.
What way can Belarus’ democratic community help Statkevich who has been in prison for four years?
There is a word – ‘solidarity’. It costs little but it is highly valued. Only joint actions of solidarity can help, and not only Mikalai Statkevich. Let’s recall that except for him, there are five people who were recognised as political prisoners . Any joint actions showing non-indifference of our society are very important. These may be ordinary letters and, telegrams to the administration of the penitentiary institutions where political prisoners are kept. These may be leaflets with their portraits, petitions demanding to stop the persecution, any joint statements. Or just postcards, telegrams, letters to political prisoners. I am calling on the Belarusian society to do it and сount on your support.
Mikalai Statkevich / Мікола Статкевіч
213004 Магілёўская вобласць, г. Шклоў, папраўчая калонія № 17.
213004 Shklou, penal colony No. 17, Mahiliou region, Belarus