A former opposition candidate in the Belarusian presidential election today revealed that he was subjected to torture during his two months’ detention in a KGB jail.
Ales Mikhalevich (left) was one of several opposition candidates and hundreds of democracy activists arrested for disputing the results of December’s presidential election. Incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed victory following a poll which international election monitors declared deeply flawed.
In a detailed statement released today, Mikhalevich described the KGB’s brutal methods which are “aimed at breaking the oppositional leaders”:
Guards….wearing black masks without identification marks – dragged me out of the cell, handcuffed me and lifted my arms up by handcuffs so as to lower me face down to the concrete floor. They dragged me down a spiral staircase to a basement room. After twisting my arms behind my back as far upwards as they would go, until my joints started cracking, they told me I needed to do everything requested of me. They kept my arms in this position for a long time and pushed them higher and higher until I said I would comply with all requests.
Several times a day, prisoners were subjected to a full body search while forced to stand naked in a painful posture in freezing temperatures:
Systematically, 5-6 times a day, we were taken out “to be searched” – for a body search. During this, we were made to stand naked in a “stretch vice”: our legs were tripped up, forcing them to be stretched almost to a full split. When our legs were tackled, I felt the ligaments breaking, it was difficult to walk after this procedure.
“After my joints crunched I did all they wanted,” he said at a news conference today.
He was forced to sign an agreement that he had collaborated with the KGB in order to secure his release, but insisted that he never would be an agent for the security services.
Mikhalevich said that he realized that he might be arrested again after breaking his agreement not to reveal details of his mistreatment, but he felt morally obliged to expose the regime’s methods.
“I will do everything I can to shut down the concentration camp in the center of Minsk,” he said. He has made an official complaint to the prosecutor-general and plans to make a similar appeal to the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture.
The regime’s crackdown prompted calls for the EU and US to adopt coordinated stategies to counter the authoritarian turn.
National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman recently joined dozens of eminent politicians, dissidents, and artists in a declaration of solidarity with imprisoned Belarusian democrats on RFE/RL’s Radio Svaboda.