Andrzej Poczobut: The regime does everything to intimidate the society

Prison administrations still require from political prisoners to sign requests for clemency. Why and for what purpose this practice, under which against political prisoners are used extreme methods, including torture, is being exercised? Reporter of spoke with journalist and correspondent for Gazeta Wyborcza, Andrzej Poczobut.

Andrzej Poczobut: Tortures are actually quite common in prisons. Mykola Statkevich confirmed this in one of his last letters send from behind bars. It is obvious that the authorities wish the convicted to repent, they want an apology. And it is a constant tactic, independent of the dialogues, visits and contacts. These requests allow, allegedly, the authorities to save face.

– It is known, however, that this game is fundamentally dishonest. In view of that fact, do the requests can better the image of the authorities? Will it be possible to continue putting a good face on a bad business, because some political prisoners were acquitted?

Andrzej Poczobut: A number of politicians and social activists, accused of participating in Ploshcha-2010 have been acquitted. However, we should not talk here about a political thaw, or even associate these events with visits of Belarusian officials in the European Union. These are the objective facts indicating that the prisoners finished their sentences and the whole process can no longer be artificially maintained. On the other hand, the fabrication of new accusations of political prisoners could stand in the plans of the official Minsk, and more specifically in the game, in which plays the regime.

– After introducing sanctions against foreign minister, Makey, it was said that Minsk would probably never go to any concessions, and will use ending sentences of prisoners only for propaganda purposes, as a gesture of good will. Is such misinformation is possible?

Andrzej Poczobut: No, because it is an absolute lie. We are dealing here with an objective process, with the expiration of incarceration. I think that no one in Europe believes the deadlines of judgments as concessions on the part of the Belarusian regime. It is possible that there is a kind of people who interpret any of the information in their own way. Maybe there will be distributed opinions that this is a sign of liberalization, but in reality, what is happening now is simply the implementation of a particular style of politics. It lacks the movement towards liberalization, at the same time the restrictions are not  increased. But society is still extremely intimidated. However, the political situation in Belarus continues to remind stagnation, and the level of fear in society remains unchanged. The authorities with  its moves and implementation of certain processes indicates immutability of course aimed at repression.

– So it seems that cases of some prisoners are a symptom of the extension of this policy?

Andrzej Poczobut: Once again, it appears that the Belarusian regime is not going to deviate from the policy of repression against the opposition. Therefore, if the regime will start to believe that the society should be intimidated, the harassment would continue. The regime does not have to make an effort to find another victim. I noticed that what happens now is a continuation of the current practice. Today, many like to mention the years 2008-2010, as the years of the alleged liberalization. However, these words should be verified by Mykola Autukhovich who exactly at that time was tried and imprisoned. Therefore, for the authorities of Belarus and the Belarusian regime it is important not only to control the society, but also to maintain a certain level of fear in it. And the other games with the European Union – are secondary things. If there are actions beneficial to the authorities, we will not have long to wait.

– All this has also the other side. After in country had appeared so many political prisoners, the public learned about the practice of torture in prisons. This applies not only to prisoners of conscience, but also for other people. Even the letter of Mykola Statkevich attracted the attention to what is happening in prisons. Are the authorities prepared for such an option?

Andrzej Poczobut: I am certain that the Belarusian authorities are well aware of the situation in the prisons. When the politicians and social activists are imprisoned, it’s almost certain that they will smuggle information outside the prison walls. I do not think that the government did not expect it. The point is that it is one of the natural consequences of the state of affairs, however, it is important that this problem is being publicly discussed. Finally, social movements and associations defending the rights of prisoners, and not only political prisoners, do not appear right away. Therefore, we can speak of a benefit to society.

– And is the society ready to repay for these initiatives to those who for their political views went to jail?

Andrzej Poczobut: Unfortunately, at present, the Belarusian society is paralyzed by fear. Surely there is a simple human gratitude. However, solidarity in a broader sense, unfortunately, is not noticed. And there is no such possibility that such solidarity can be manifested.

– And how can be the situation changed?

Andrzej Poczobut: The thing is that as long as people do not experience any other force, they do not see an alternative to the existing system of power. If there is a strong repression of the Lukashenko regime, every action of solidarity with political prisoners will be effectively interrupted, as a result, the organizers will be punished. And in addition to this, people are not aware of other options. If there is created a new center that brings together the power and will have visible impact and become an alternative to the existing system, it is possible that people’s opinions would change dramatically. This has not happen until now.

Other political prisoners