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AFP
August 15, 2020

Jailed Belarusians reveal prison abuse

World

AFP
August 15, 2020

MINSK: Emerging from a jail in Minsk with other Belarusians detained in a post-election crackdown, 27-year-old maths teacher Yana Bobrovskaya said she never expected to make it out alive.

"We thought we would be buried in here," she said on Friday, weeping as she recounted her experience to AFP. "They can do anything while you have no rights," she added. Bobrovskaya was one of hundreds of Belarusian protesters and chance bystanders who were being released after they were detained in a crackdown following President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed landslide win on Sunday.

Hundreds of anguished friends and relatives were waiting outside the Minsk detention centre, and several ambulances arrived to take injured people away.

Many detainees gave harrowing accounts of beatings, humiliation and torture. Some women were threatened with rape, while men spoke of being ordered to strip naked and get down on all fours while officers beat them with truncheons, according to Amnesty International.

One man told AFP he was burned with cigarettes, while another said he was given electric shocks and beaten with sticks. Many seemed unafraid to speak out and some men undressed to show AFP journalists their bruised buttocks and stomachs.

Bobrovskaya said she was detained even though she did not take part in protests and spent three days without food with some 50 women crowded into a cell designed for four. When they asked for tampons and toilet paper, they were told to wipe themselves with their clothes, she said.

"It’s hard to imagine such things in the 21st century," she said, describing Belarus as a "peaceful country." She said her cellmates were well-educated professionals like her. "We started joking: ‘If you haven’t been to jail, you’re not a Belarusian."

Olesya Stogova, a Russian citizen in her 30s, said she received equally inhumane treatment. She was visiting Belarus from her home city of Saint Petersburg and was snatched off the streets in the crackdown. Stogova said she was kicked and beaten with truncheons and there were almost 40 women in her four-person cell.

When she said she was Russian, guards unleashed an expletive-laden tirade. "We’ll do whatever we want. We’ll leave you disfigured -- you won’t recognise yourself," she said guards told her.