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Belarus. Andrzej Poczobut was sent to a penal colony in Nowopołock. “It’s a tough colony”

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Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and activist of the Polish minority convicted by the Belarusian authorities, was transported to the penal colony in Nowopolotsk. It is a hard colony, there are also other political prisoners, including Viktar Babaryka, a would-be presidential candidate, says Barys Harecki from the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ).

“Poczobut is not an ordinary prisoner, but – from the point of view of Alyaksandr Lukashenko – the subject of a bargain with the Polish authorities. I have the impression that, like his entire trial, the choice of the place of imprisonment was also a show, demonstrating severity” – assessed Barys Harecki, deputy head of the liquidated by the authorities of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ).

READ ALSO: Andrzej Poczobut spends his 50th birthday in a Belarusian prison

There is a lot of bad news about the conditions in this prison, but on the other hand, the PAP interlocutors say that “they are Belarus also worse. From Grodno, Poczobut’s hometown, to Nowopołock in the north of the country, it takes at least six hours, and not so good roads. This is an additional difficulty for the family, which will be entitled to rare visits with Andrzej Poczobut.

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– In Belarus, there are no rules in this matter – a prisoner can be sent to virtually any of the more than 20 penal colonies. It can be closer to home or at the other end of the country, says Harecki.

A colony with a bad reputation

The Novopolotsk colony has a bad reputation for its rigor and brutal treatment of prisoners. According to former prisoners and their relatives, it is also located in an extremely gloomy place, near two large chemical plants, where, according to the prisoners’ families, the ecological conditions are harsh.

Poczobut is to serve his sentence in a maximum security colony. In one colony, there may be people of different status – with general and with stricter regime. Their situation differs in entitlements – the number of possible parcels, including money, visits, etc.

According to the Belarusian regulations, in the case of “higher security”, a prisoner can spend up to 148 Belarusian rubles (about PLN 170-180) per month (in a special “shop”), hold two short and two long meetings a year, also receive three packages up to 20 kg and two packages up to 2 kg.

Harsh conditions

However, these “privileges” can be limited by the decision of the colony’s authorities, e.g. human rights and accounts of former political prisoners show that such penalties are often used. A prisoner may also be sent to solitary confinement for “offences” or even worse – to a penal insulator.

“In solitary confinement they give you a mattress, bedding, you sleep in normal conditions. During the day, this is taken away and the bed is folded; you are on your feet all day. “You have to get up quickly and walk all day. There is also a bench there, but you can’t sleep on it. They look at you all the time through the peephole. If you close your eyes, they can add 10 more days” – said Radio Swaboda journalist Aleh Hruzdziłowicz, who was serving his political sentence for “organizing riots” in the penal colony in Mogilev.

Wishes from journalists for Andrzej Poczobut“Gazeta Wyborcza”

According to information from the Viasna human rights center, there are currently political prisoners in practically all colonies in Belarus, and there are from several to over a hundred such prisoners in various prisons. In total, 1,496 people have been recognized as political prisoners by human rights organizations, although in reality there are more. A large proportion are still in custody awaiting trial. Wiasna’s monitoring shows that, for example, there are 104 political prisoners in Nowopolotsk, and 108 in Vićba prison near Vitebsk. In Głębokie, considered one of the most strict colonies, there are two such prisoners – one of them is an oppositionist Mykola Statkevich, from whom for several months no information. Aleś Bialiatski, the head of Viasna and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, ended up in the colony in Gorki, which also had a bad reputation as one of the worst labor camps.

Rudimentary information

As throughout the “investigation” and the “trial”, also at present there is very little information about the situation of Andrzej Poczobut and other political prisoners. Due to the silence of official structures and lawyers, scarce news comes only from relatives, but they also avoid contact with the media.

About the Andrew Poczobut was sent to the labor camp in Novopolotsk, his wife Oksana found out from the letter. The journalist sent him from the detention center in Vitebsk, where he ended up during the “stage”, i.e. transport to the place of punishment. This information was provided by Oksana in a short note on Facebook.

Andrew PoczobutTVN24

In Belarusian penal colonies, which call themselves “correctional” institutions, prisoners are supposed to work. – It can be a different job – furniture production, some renovation work, sometimes even in men’s colonies there are sewing rooms (in women’s colonies, uniforms and other types of work clothes are mainly sewn). It depends on which production plants are located in a given colony – says Harecki.

Judgment for Andrzej Poczobut

The sentence of eight years in a high-security penal colony for Andrzej Poczobut was announced on February 8 by the judge of the Grodno Regional Court, Dzmitryj Bubienczyk.

In what was considered a political trial, which began on January 16, the authorities accused Poczobut, a citizen of Belarus and an activist of the Polish minority, of “incitement to hatred”, and his actions – consisting in cultivating Polishness and publishing articles in the media – were attributed with the features of “rehabilitation of Nazism”. Poczobut was also accused of calling for actions to the detriment of Belarus. In May Supreme Court rejected Poczobut’s appeal and upheld the sentence.

Sentence against Andrzej Poczobut upheld.  Jurasz: Poczobut is treated as Lukashenko's personal enemy

Sentence against Andrzej Poczobut upheld. Jurasz: Poczobut is treated as Lukashenko’s personal enemy TVN24

Human rights organizations recognize Poczobut as a political prisoner and the treatment of him as politically motivated. The Polish authorities demand that Poczobut, who is a Belarusian citizen and a representative of the Polish minority, be released and cleared of politically motivated, untrue charges. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland has repeatedly assured that it is constantly working to free Poczobut.

Main photo source: TVN24

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