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  • Journalists Alexander Burakou and Uladzimir Laptsevich punished with 20-day arrests, report torture following detention

    Journalist Alexander Burakou, who collaborates with Deutsche Welle, received 20 days of administrative arrest for alleged "repeated participation in an unauthorized event within a year". Burakou was detained on May 12 near Mahiliou regional court building. Uladzimir Laptsevich, reporter of 6tv.by received a similar sentence — 20 days of arrest.

    Alexander Burakou and Uladzimir Laptsevich

    Vasi­ly Kar­ni­ayen­ka, Lenin­sky dis­trict police offi­cer, tes­ti­fied against them dur­ing the hear­ing. In fact, there was no mass event near the court build­ing. The jour­nal­ists came there to cov­er a tri­al but were not allowed to enter the build­ing, just as many oth­er rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the pub­lic.

    At the court hear­ing, Alexan­der Burak­ou said that had been tor­tured and treat­ed in an inhu­man way at Mahil­iou deten­tion cen­ter: He had­n’t slept prop­er­ly for sev­er­al nights, the staff reg­u­lar­ly arranged cell checks, forc­ing him to strip naked in the cor­ri­dor. They also did not pass him cloth­ing and oth­er stuff that his fam­i­ly brought to the deten­tion cen­ter.

    Jour­nal­ist Uladz­imir Lapt­se­vich was also found guilty of par­tic­i­pat­ing in an ille­gal mass event and sen­tenced to 20-day arrest.

    Although the detained can be kept in cus­tody for only 72 hours before court hear­ing, Lapt­se­vich was ille­gal­ly held in the deten­tion cen­ter pend­ing tri­al. Three hours lat­er he was pun­ished with 20 days of jail.  Uladz­imir felt sick because of high blood pres­sure, they had to call for a doc­tor to his cell. He also report­ed tor­ture in the deten­tion facil­i­ty, and that he had been unlaw­ful­ly detained and held behind bars.

    Both Alek­sand Burak­ou and Uladz­imir Lapt­se­vich con­firmed that they went on a hunger strike.

    Their fam­i­lies learned about the hunger strike from the jail per­son­nel, when they brought a par­cel for them: the per­son­nel took warm clothes and hygiene prod­ucts for Burak­ou (but did not give it to him, as Burak­ou stat­ed in the court­room), but not food, claim­ing he was on hunger strike.

    How­ev­er, the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs denied the infor­ma­tion about the hunger strike  «Mahil­iou res­i­dents, Alexan­der Burak­ou and Uladz­imir Lapt­se­vich, were indeed detained on May 12 near the build­ing of the region­al court for com­mit­ting an admin­is­tra­tive offense. How­ev­er, these cit­i­zens have noth­ing to do with reg­is­tered mass media and are free­lancers,» the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs said.

    The Min­istry also claimed that they had not received any offi­cial state­ments about the hunger strike.

    «On May 13, they refused in writ­ing to accept food from fam­i­lies in parcels, but they have the reg­u­lar dai­ly meals pro­vid­ed by the deten­tion facil­i­ty,» the Min­istry said. 

    Their cas­es were heard by judge Tat­siana Kast­siuk.

    The Ger­man For­eign Min­istry is inves­ti­gat­ing the cir­cum­stances of the deten­tion of inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists in Belarus, in par­tic­u­lar Alexan­der Burak­ou, who coop­er­ates with Deutsche Welle,   Christofer Burg­er, offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Ger­man Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, said on Fri­day, May 14, in response to a ques­tion from a DW reporter.

    He says, the Ger­man For­eign Min­istry is try­ing to clar­i­fy the cir­cum­stances of the case through the Ger­man Embassy in Min­sk.

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