Malady Front leaders Zmitser Dashkevich and Nasta Palazhanka get married in prison

Zmitser Dashkevich and Anastasiya (Nasta) Palazhanka, leaders of an opposition youth group called Malady Front, got married in Prison No. 1 in Hrodna on December 26.

As Anastasiya told reporters, she has adopted the last name of her husband and will now be called Anastasiya Dashkevich, BelaPAN said.

Although it has been nearly 18 months since the pair announced their intention to get married, the marriage could not be registered because Mr. Dashkevich`s passport was seized during a KGB raid on his home following his arrest in December 2010.

“I think that KGB officers did not return the passport to Zmitser simply because they wanted to keep us in suspense,” Anastasiya said. “We filed complaints with various governmental agencies for more than six months. Finally, the Prosecutor General`s Office replied that they passport had not been found. We then applied for a replacement passport. When it was ready, I went to the local registry office and it scheduled our wedding for December 19. I was nervous at first because December 19 is one of the most tragic dates in our life. But I later received a phone call from the office that the wedding had to be postponed to December 26.”

On Wednesday morning, Anastasiya visited the registry office to have a stamp placed in her passport that she was married to Mr. Dashkevich.

She and a representative of the registry office then traveled to the Hrodna prison.

“I was led into a separate room and told to wait for Zmitser,” Anastasiya said. “He looked surprised when he entered the room and saw me. `Could this be true?` were his first words. When the ceremony started and the officer asked whether I would change my name, I replied that I would take my husband`s last name. I later joked that the regime will now have two Dashkevichs to grapple with.”

Prison officers were their attendants at the ceremony.

“I was pleasantly shocked when I saw Zmitser,” Ms. Palazhanka said. “He hadn`t changed one bit since our previous meeting. When we sat there and talked, I felt as if I had seen him the day before. He was very thin and pale, but it was difficult to believe that this person had suffered so much.”

The newlyweds were given only 10 minutes to talk to each other.

Mr. Dashkevich is later expected to have one conjugal meeting with his wife. They will talk over the phone through a glass partition for two hours. One of the restrictions for the inmates of the high-security prison in Hrodna is that they are not allowed to have longer meetings with their family members.

Zmitser Dashkevich, currently 31 years of age, was arrested in Minsk on December 18, 2010, on the eve of a scheduled large-scale post-election demonstration, for allegedly beating up two passers-by. Speaking during his trial, Mr. Dashkevich said that the incident was a provocation orchestrated by authorities and accused the two alleged victims of giving false testimony.

On March 24, 2011, he was sentenced to two years in a minimum-security correctional institution on a charge of “especially malicious hooliganism.”

In September 2011, he refused an offer of freedom in exchange for asking Alyaksandr Lukashenka for a presidential pardon.

Mr. Dashkevich has repeatedly been placed in disciplinary confinement and transferred to other prisons for allegedly violating prison rules. As a result of two trials, he had his prison term extended to August 28, 2013, and ended up in the cell-type prison in Hrodna.

Anastasiya Palazhanka, currently 22, spent almost two months in a KGB jail in Minsk following the December 19 post-election demonstration.

On May 20, 2011, a district judge in Minsk gave her a suspended one-year prison sentence, finding her guilty of instigating disturbances and participating in them.

Other political prisoners