‘We won’t forget!’: Jail terms over pavement inscription in memory of Alyaksandr Taraykouski

In court. Minsk, 8 December 2020. Photo: belsat.eu

On Tuesday, hefty verdicts were given to five defendants in Frunzenski district court of Minsk. The Belarusian authorities believe them to be ‘hooligans’ due to the fact than they paid tribute to Alyaksandr Taraykouski who was the first Belarusian to have fallen victim during the post-election protests.

On September 9, the Minskers made the inscription “We will not not forget!” on the paving flagstones not far from Taraykouski’s death site in the vicinity of Pushkinskaya metro station. The absurdity of the situation might be obvious, but criminal case was opened against them. The five persons were charged with ‘gang hooliganism’ and ‘intentional damaging property’.

On December 8, Dzyanis Hrakhanau and Ihar Samusenka were sentenced to 1.5 years of restriction of liberty in an open-type correctional facility, Maryia Babovich – to 1.5 years of restriction of liberty without haveng to stay in such institution; Maksim Pavlyushchyk – to two years of imprisonment in a medium security penal colony, and Uladislau Hulis – to two years in a maximum security penal colony.

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Alyaksandr Taraykouski, a 34-year-old resident of Minsk, died during the crackdown on protesters at Pushkinskaya metro station on August, 10. His death was confirmed by the authorities, but many people doubt the official version. According to the Interior Ministry, the man was about to throw an improvised explosive device at the security officers, but it exploded in his hand.

In mid August, the Associated Press news agency published a video of Taraykouski’s death. The video shows flashes from law enforcement shots and a man in shorts and a T-shirt with a large bloody stain on his chest. He holds on to the wound with his hand and then falls to the ground. The video clearly shows no explosives in the protester’s hands. Alyaksandr Taraykouski’s wife identified him in this footage.

Although there are witnesses to the man’s death, no criminal case has not been opened yet. Moreover, the check into Alyaksandr Taraykouski’s case was suspended by the Minsk department of the Belarusian Investigation Committee in mid November.

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There are other deaths linked to post-election protests (Henadz Shutau, Mikita Kryutsou, Alyaksandr Vikhor, Kanstantsin Shyshmakou, Artsyom Parukou, Raman Bandarenka).

For four months, the protests have been underway in the country; the major demands of Belarusians are Lukashenka’s resignation; holding a free and fair election; releasing political prisoners; putting an end to police violence as well as bringing to justice those involved in battering and torturing peaceful demonstrators.

Since August 9, around 31,000 people have been detained across the country. Many of them were beaten, some were raped. Hundreds of persons, including Belsat TV journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova, are parties to criminal proceedings, the number of political prisoners exceeded 150. Several thousand detainees filed complaints against police officers’ illegal actions to the Investigative Committee. However, not a single criminal case has been opened over the citizens’ appeals.

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