Belarus: Locked Up and Beaten After Police Took Me Out of Taxi During Protests | World news

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The young man smiled as he recalled three days of brutal beatings by riot police in custody in Belarus after protesters rejected the re-election of longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko.

He said it was his way of dealing with terror and injustice. So, too, expresses himself.

Igor Kviatko, 23, told Sky News he was pulled out of a taxi, beaten with batons and gassed by police – despite saying he had nothing to do with the wave of anti-government protests.

He lifted his shorts to reveal extensive bruising on his thighs and back from what he described as punitive beating.

The railwayman – a locksmith – winced in pain as he sat back down, unable to find a comfortable position to tell his story.

He asked, “Why catch me and beat me? ”

“So what is our country – democratic or we have a dictatorship?” What is that? What is that?

“Or do we have a concentration camp? Just a concentration camp. “



Three days of blows under the dictatorship

Nearly 7,000 people have been arrested since a disputed presidential election last Sunday sparked an unprecedented wave of protests across Belarus – and a violent crackdown on the police and security services.

In a rare raid, the government apologized on Friday for the use of force by releasing more than 2,000 of those who had been detained.

The UK and the European Union condemned police brutality and called for the immediate release of all detainees.

For Mr. Kviatko, his ordeal began when he took a taxi with two friends after completing the day’s work last Monday. He was planning to visit one of their homes.

Police fought protests in the streets, beating and arresting protesters.

As the taxi sat in traffic, Mr Kviatko said riot police suddenly appeared. One knocked on the window and ordered them to get out of the car.

“We opened the door, they just pulled us out, beat us on our legs with a rubber baton, face down,” he said.

“They kicked our feet and asked us, ‘Where are you from? I replied, “I drive from work” but they hit even harder, it was very painful. ”

He said he was put into a van where the beating continued for several hours.



Violence escalates during protests in Belarus

At one point, Mr Kviatko said that security forces put on gas masks and let a gas canister escape inside the vehicle.

He said, “When gas was being sprayed, it was very difficult to breathe and your eyes hurt very much, you cannot open them because when you open them, the gas reaches the surface of your eyes and you want to close them. .

“So you shut up like that and you sit down.”

“It’s the punishment. This is how they do it. ”

He and dozens of other detainees were taken to a detention center where Mr Kviatko said they were told to walk past a line of masked security officers who beat them again.

The locksmith said he was pushed to the ground and beaten with a rubber stick
Image:
The locksmith said he was pushed to the ground and beaten with a rubber stick

They were ordered to kneel on the ground for several hours before an official came to register their names and they were transferred to a detention room where he had to face a wall with his hands behind his head. .

At that time, it was the early hours of the morning.

The young man said the masked troops had been replaced by regular police officers who were less aggressive, offering water to inmates and letting them use the toilet.

But, he said later Tuesday, when more military personnel returned, the beatings resumed, with officers asking why he wanted change in the country even though he had repeatedly denied taking part in the protests – these denials sparked more beatings.

Mr Kviatko had bruises on his back from which the police beat him
Image:
Mr. Kviatko had bruises on his back from which the police beat him

At one point, he and others were transferred in a police van to a second detention center, with a similar ritual upon arrival.

“A column of riot police was lined up and we again had to run through the line to the cells with our hands behind our backs,” he said.

“A riot policeman held a stick at his abdomen and said, ‘Keep your head lower – if you get up you get hit on the head.’ ”

Mr. Kviatko was crammed into a cell with about 120 other people. There were four other cells of similar size, with around 500 inmates in total.

He said he heard screams and calls for help from other inmates as they were beaten.

At this point – almost two days after his arrest – he and his fellow inmates were given a small amount of food to share. A system was in place to deal with them.

He has bruises on his thighs and back
Image:
He has bruises on his thighs and back

The young man said those who admitted what they were accused of were given 10 days in jail while those who denied the charge were jailed for 15 days.

Despite being innocent, he said he just wanted to be prosecuted rather than continue to wait in scared limbo.

At noon on Wednesday, a list of detainees who would simply be released appeared.

His name was on the list but he had to wait until 5 a.m. the next morning before it was his turn to be treated.

“We were taken to the street, there were tables and masked riot police,” he said.

One of the agents asked him if he was planning on going out on the weekend and what would he do?

“We were placed against the wall with our hands behind our backs. When they call your name, you get off the line, there’s paper on the table, if you read it or ask questions, what it is – you’ll be beaten.

“If you don’t sign the paper – in front of me, a man who was brought behind the fence and beaten, we heard screams. He was brought back, he signed what was needed.

Seeing all this, Mr. Kviatko decided that he would just sign without even reading what was on the document.

“Everyone who signed was taken to another part of this territory. One of the OMON [riot police] the officers gave the order to run in the sand without touching the grass, ”he said.

“You had to run. Nearby there is a blue bus, from there, the riot police give the order to “lie face down on the ground”.

“They came to beat us with rubber batons for a minute, a minute and a half as a farewell.

“You lie down on the floor, nothing can be done. The pain is so bad that the men cried, someone lost their voice, we begged them to stop.

“But not all of the officials with batons seemed comfortable with what they were doing.

“One of the riot police said to me, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. ”



Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urges Belarusian authorities to engage in dialogue

Presidential candidate: “End the violence in the streets of Belarus”

Mr Kviatko was eventually allowed to leave, although his belongings, including his money, phone and chain, were not returned to him. His two friends are also still in detention.

Speaking from his home on Friday, Kviatko said he spoke to a human rights lawyer about what happened and is officially documenting his case with authorities.

“I need to record evidence of beatings, so that I can prove that I was simply arrested in the street,” he added.

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