Watch the Human Rights Match with us in Belarus!
I am Mykalai Statkevich, I was an opposition presidential candidate in the 2010 elections and have been sentenced to 6 years in a labour camp for allegedly "organizing mass uprisings".
Former Presidential candidate, Mykalai Statkevich, was sentenced to six years’ hard labour in May 2011. He was transferred from a penal colony in January 2012 to a stricter prison regime for allegedly violating prison rules. Mykalai is due to be transferred back the penal colony on 12 January 2015 where he is due to remain until 19 December 2016.
Mykalai has not been inactive since his imprisonment and, according to his wife, Marina, has managed to initiate significant changes throughout the penitentiary system, including improved hygiene conditions for all prisoners! In April 2014, Marina told Amnesty International that her life has been divided into two parts – before and after her husband's arrest. She has lost her job and the prospect of finding new work and devotes her life to raising awareness of the situation in Belarus and the fate of her husband and other political prisoners. She told us that she struggles to keep up her strength.
Mykalai does receive cards and Marina reiterated the importance of solidarity for him. Mykalai says he is sorry that he is unable to respond to them as many are not addressed or he does not speak the language. However, she said that such letters warm his heart, to know that he is not forgotten and that even if he doesn’t receive all of them (she estimated that he receives one tenth of what is sent to him) the prison authorities do see the letters which impacts on the pressure they might put him under.
Mykalai is not housed in the main building but for more than two years has been kept separately to deprive him of contact with other prisoners. Marina last saw her husband on 26 December 2013. He is only allowed two visits a year for two hours when they talk by phone with a glass screen separating them. He is allowed one phone call a month. He has one and a half hour’s exercise a day on the roof of the prison which has a barbed wire cover. The sun peeks through from March to October but Mykalai sees nothing of nature at all – he hasn’t seen any animals or trees for months.
Marina told Amnesty International that she counts every day he has been detained, which is now over 1,200 days.