People see whom the authorities fear, and draw conclusions.
Activist, former parliamentary candidate from the European Belarus civil campaign Dzmitry Kazlou, known as the Grey Cat video blogger, told Charter97.org about his arrest and trial:
- How and when were you detained?
- On Friday evening, the district police officer came to me and handed the subpoena to the Vorsha district department of the interior on Saturday, 9 a.m. It was written in it that I should appear “as a participant in the administrative case”. It was not indicated in which particular case, which article I violated, in what capacity they summoned me.
I knew for sure that I did not break the law, so I decided to go to the police department at the appointed time. Naturally, before that I notified journalists and human rights activists. They agreed that if my phone doesn’t answer by 12.00, it means they detained me.
The next day, all my things were immediately taken from me at the police department. After that, Inspector Lidziya Trushko came up to me and offered to go to her office. There she said that the administrative case I had been notified, was allegedly started due to the fact that I urged people to come out to the Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk on November 15, to protest. The protocol has already been drawn up in advance.
Trushko began to ask me all sorts of questions that did not concern the administrative case at all, for example, “what are you fighting for?”, “What doesn’t suit you?” and so on. I did not answer. I do not believe that it is possible to conduct such conversations with a person who has a reward from the security service of the dictator “for help in ensuring security” hanging on the wall.
The inspector said that since the courts are closed on Saturday, they will leave me until Monday at the temporary detention center. Why then it was necessary to summon me there on Saturday, remains unclear.
- Probably to make you “stay” with them longer.
- It looked stupid, and they understood it themselves.
- What were the confinement conditions?
- In the cell where they put me, there were five people detained for drinking alcohol and hooliganism. Someone got caught in the street after drinking a glass of beer, someone was reported to the police by neighbours. When they asked me why I was here, and I called my article 23.34, they did not even know what it was. When told, they became interested, of course. The attitude was actually very good from cellmates. Previously, they did not encounter this.
In the detention center, everything was quite strict and tough, no indulgences were allowed. Those who smoke were not given lighters. No books or writing utensils. Only talking and walking from wall to wall remained for those wishing to keep themselves entertained.
- How did those who were detained with you feel about the authorities?
- Like most people outside - negatively. These are ordinary residents of Vorsha, but for some reason they were called “asocial elements”, they cannot fit into the system. There were people who work, absolutely normal and decent.
- Did you stand trial only on Monday night?
- Yes, two and a half days after the arrest. In the morning on December 2, after checking and having breakfast, everyone who was in the cell was taken to the police department and informed that the trial would be away. Everyone except me was tried, I was just waiting for the process to begin. No one told me anything.
This continued until 13.00, then I was taken to another cell, where foreigners from India and Pakistan were jailed. It was already getting dark, but there was still no trial. I thought they would wait for 72 hours, and the administrative process would begin on Tuesday morning. But then the door opened and they informed me that they would take me to the court.
The guard took me to the inspection room, where there were already several police officers with weapons. They read out to me certain rules of conduct in court, then they put me in a paddy wagon.
At the courthouse, I saw our local activists with posters in my support. It turned out that bloggers, human rights activists have been waiting for me all day. I did not even expect such support.
A convoy of eight armed policemen drove me into the courtroom, and there were several more riot policemen at the entrance. Why such security measures? Am I so scary? It looked funny, of course. Then these policemen simply surrounded me with a tight ring so that no one from the support group would approach me.
The trial itself was ordinary, I got a 20 base fees fine; my arguments were not taken into account at all.
- What, in your opinion, is the reason for such actions of the authorities?
- I think it's just revenge for the vibrant campaign. No one in Vorsha held as many pickets as the European Belarus, no one criticized both local officials and the Minsk authorities. Of course, they could have just given me a copy of the protocol, and release me before the trial. But they could not do that. They wanted to demonstrate strength, but demonstrated stupidity.
Many journalists, popular websites, and the most widely read public communities in the social media reported my detention. Now they are talking about this in Vorsha, just as they used to say about the ban of my TV speech, about withdrawing me from the “electoral race”. The authorities show who they are afraid of, and people see it and draw conclusions.
While I was detained for the whole weekend, and then on Monday I spent the whole day waiting for the trial, the number of subscribers to the channel increased by several hundred, despite the fact that I, you know, did not have an opportunity to deal with it. The authorities made a scandal out of nothing, thereby providing me with some good advertisement.
- What are your plans for the near future?
- Continue the fight. As soon as I was released, I saw support, moreover, support throughout the country. I got a very interesting and useful experience. I talked with interesting people, listened to their stories, told my own. I am convinced that it is necessary to continue the struggle further. Disseminate information, communicate with people, seek to change this power. Our tasks remain the same: we must change the power in this country, it is time to wipe off this regime. We will do this without paying attention to the fact that some dogs are barking in our back.