A former political prisoner Zmitser Bandarenka gave an interview to the website charter97.org.
I made a decision not to return to Belarus. I think that when I return to Belarus I will be arrested again. Everyone can observe what is happening in the country. My return is possible only if all political prisoners are released and rehabilitated and their convictions are removed.
What exactly had an influence on your decision?
I have been in Poland for a course of treatment since July. I planned to return back to homeland. But paranoia in Belarus significantly increased after the teddy bear stunt. You know that after the release of Andrei Sannikov and me, we heard direct threats to us from the authorities on television. Some earlier released political prisoners were thrown behind bars again, some were banned from leaving the country, some live on the verge of a new arrest. Society had little hopes for a minimum normalization of the situation in the country, but they didn’t come true.
The last straw to take this decision was a disgraceful trial over Zmitser Dashkevich.
I have always thought I was held captive for 16 months. I think I can be more useful for the country outside prison.
What are you going to do in Poland?
I will continue the course of treatment and will study. I was offered to take a two-year postgraduate course in political science under Kalinowski Scholarship Programme. I am actively learning Polish now.
Are you going to ask for political asylum?
Studying at the University of Warsaw gives me the right to stay in Poland legally, so I have no plans to apply for political asylum in the nearest time. But I cannot return to Belarus, unfortunately.
You have been in active politics for 15 years. Do you intend to continue your political activity?
I think the triumph of reaction in Belarus will not last long. The absolute majority of people want changes. The regime lost on December 19, 2010. It holds only due to police batons today. The situation in Belarus will change faster than some may think. I will do my best for Belarus to see European transformations as soon as possible.
What do you think about the forthcoming “parliamentary election”?
Even in prison I thought the so called “election” can be evaluated only from one point of view: whether they help to release all political prisoners or not. A new sentence for Dashkevich outweighs the demagogic reasoning about introduction of parties’ wonderful programmes to people.
I am sure that if all opposition institutions had announced their decision not to run in the “election” when European ambassadors left the country, political prisoners would have been released long ago. A wise pause is sometimes better than fussy senseless actions. This is exactly what we have now.