17 October 2017, Tuesday, 4:59

Jauhen Afnagel: Lukashenka vs. People. People to Win

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Jauhen Afnagel

A turning point took place on March 25.

Coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign Jauhen Afnagel who was released yesterday after 15 days of arrest in Zhodzina told in the interview with Charter97.org.

- Jauhen, what did happen yesterday?

- I left the cell an hour and a half before the release, then I sat in a car and was driven to the Zhodzina railway station. Another car followed us. At the railway station I was given my things, documents back and led to the train. Activists waiting on me near prison gated told that two paddy wagons arrived there and they saw many policemen in plain clothes. When my wife Katya wondered what they did there, they said "to ensure security of Zhodzina".

- How did your detention happen?

- On March 22 the car I was in was stopped by traffic police officers and the police at about 4.30 pm. It had allegedly been involved in a car accident. I was taken to the Pershamaiski RUVD. Then the protocol under Article 23.4 of the Administrative Code (Defiance of legal requirement of a police officer") was drawn up. The hearing was held in the RUVD building 10 minutes after the paperwork. They did not give a chance to contact my lawyer. Judge Tsykal D.Y. delivered a decision about 15 days of arrest which was based on false testimony of traffic police officers Shutsikau A.A. and Misyuk A.N. It was obvious that they were all in a hurry.

After that, I was not handcuffed and told that several places would be searched under a criminal case (Article 339 of the Criminal Code "hooliganism") where I was "only a witness at the moment". The car I was in at the moment of the arrest was searched first. Later my mother's apartment and underbuilt house near Minsk were searched. It lasted till about 3 am. I did not present when search in the apartment, I was handcuffed in a police car. Audio equipment, three laptops, books of Andrei Sannikov, a few stickers and leaflets were seized. Then I was taken to the Akrestsina prison.

- But you were in Zhodzina. Were there not enough cells in Akrestsina? What were conditons in both isolation cells?

- On March 24 most of detainees of Akrestsina prison were put in seven paddy wagons (15 people in every paddy wagon) and taken to Zhodzina. We were not explained why, but it was likely done because of the Freedom Day.

Conditions in both isolation cells do not differ much. Food is a bit better in Minsk, the personal search procedure is humiliating in Zhodzina. After the release I found out that more than a half of letters had not been given to me.

- How will you comment on activities of the authorities on March 25?

- It is hard to comment on activities of mentally ill person who is scared to death. Only fear of his own people can explain the attack on peaceful demonstrators by law enforcement bodies.

More rational explanation is also acceptable. Intelligence services, Lukashenka's inner circle understand that the regime is coming to an end, protests will only enhance and this power will be finally overthrown. They try to use old means - repressions. But it is one thing to fight the opposition, other is to fight the entire nation. This is happening now. It's not the opposition that struggles, but ordinary people who have spent these 20 years at home. And Lukashenka will be defeated, because he has no money for this war.

-Nikolai Statkevich announced the following action on 1 May. Do you agree with it?

- It was a turning point on March 25. And it is clearly seen. Participants did not ran away from the riot police, they were not afraid of water cannons and paddy wagons. They looked for ways to organize themselves, raise flags, and build up a column. They stood in front of cordons and expressed their demands. For the first time the authorities failed to quickly disperse the protests action. Those participants of March 25 hammered their fear and, I think, felt their inner strength. But this is not the end. On May 1 we should come together again in the centre of the city and demonstrate our strength.

A month ago Mikalai Statkevich voiced his plan and warned that the Freedom Day was only the beginning of the struggle. One must find courage and patience and bring this all to its logical end.