In an article headlined “I Spent Two Terrifying Days Imprisoned In Belarus,” journalist Dan Peleschuk recounts his harrowing experience covering the opposition protests in Belarus following the rigged presidential election. The story appeared on BuzzFeed.News on August 20.
Mr. Peleschuk writes:
“For anyone on the streets of Minsk and other cities around the country, the sound of Alexander Lukashenko’s [Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s] Belarus has now become the roar of crowds demanding his ouster, fair elections and a freer country.
“But for me, and the thousands of others detained last week, it’s a combat boot striking the side of a human torso. Or the cries of a person buckled in pain.
“Judging by the horrendous accounts of police abuse trickling out of Belarus, my experience was far from the worst. But two days in detention was enough to understand what kept Belarusians cowed and submissive for years – and why that’s now changing.”
Mr. Peleschuk, a Ukrainian American journalist based in Kyiv whose byline has appeared in The Ukrainian Weekly, traveled to Minsk to report on the election. On the evening of August 10, he was detained by masked and black-clad OMON forces and driven to the police station, where several dozen people were ultimately brought that evening, subjected to searches, verbal abuse and beatings. “All were charged with the administrative offense of participating in an unsanctioned rally, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 days,” he reports. They were then taken in a troop carrier to a detention facility some 40 miles outside of Minsk, where their ordeal continued.
Mr. Peleschuk writes: “Over the next day and a half in that musty, oxygen-deprived cell – packed with students, techies, small business owners, and blue-collar workers – inmates traded stories about how their arrest sheets had been fabricated to claim they’d been shouting slogans or inciting protests. Most had been picked off the street like me; some right front of their homes. …not a single man believed the Lukashenko regime had any legitimacy left.”
His cellmates, he says, “begged me to ‘tell the world’ about everything I’d seen.”
Thanks to calls the young journalist was able to surreptitiously make via his cellphone to his parents in the U.S. and a colleague in Kyiv, Mr. Peleschuk was released on the third day of his detention when a representative of the U.S. Embassy arrived to pick him up.
To read the full story by Mr. Peleschuk, go to: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/danpeleschuk/belarus-detention-centers-abuse-lukashenko-protests/.