“We turn on the electric shocker, tie the arms and legs behind and shove the gag down the throat.”
Ales Tolstyk was detained near his house on October 14th. He went through the typical way for today’s Belarusians “from the police department to Zhodino prison” and tells how it was: from an electric shocker in Okrestina detention center to being kept in a cell for life prisoners in Zhodino.
“Look out the window — Dad is being kidnapped.”
Ales was detained on October 14 at 5 pm near the entrance to the house where he lives with his family.
“I had anticipation,” he recalls. “I said goodbye to my daughter not as usual, then in the street through the silence I heard the car moving. I look — stopped at the end of the house. And I felt nostalgia immediately: I was detained in the same way both for the business movement and for the Kurapaty case. I realized they came up for me. I called my son and said: “Son, look out the window — Your Dad is being kidnapped.”
Ales Talstyk was waiting for an official report for participation in the protest action on October 11th in the Leninski District police department.
“Tall healthy men were talking to me — definitely not the officers of the Leninski District police department,” says Ales. “After all, we all know each other with Leninsky district police: they were coming up when we were gathering in the solidarity chains in our area, and even warned us when the riot police came. So I refused to talk to the man who did not introduce himself. While I was waiting near the duty unit, I demanded one girl be let to the toilet, and an ambulance to be called to the other one, as she was beaten — and they did it ”
A Major, the former colleague of Ales, was on duty at the police department. He asked the young officer, who was driving Ales to Okrestina detention center, not to beat him.
“In the bus, I even risked asking to loosen the handcuffs on my right arm — and they did not deny,” he recalls. “Those guys in the bus were discussing how much each of them had slept that night. Some of them were sleeping for three hours, the others — one and a half.”
“Major, you’re confusing something.”
Ales was denied medical care during his admission to the detention center in Okrestina Street. He warned that he had high blood pressure, but the paramedic said: “I’m not a doctor.” Eight people were sitting in the cell and it was hot: the windows were closed, it was ventilated. A little later, the detainees managed to open at least a “feeding trough” window. Ales immediately refused to eat in principle.
“In the morning we were transferred somewhere with filthy words,” he recalls. “I immediately remarked the major. I said: “Major, you are confusing something. I am an educated person, and I remind you: I am not even convicted yet, just temporarily detained. And what will happen if I am released in five minutes? ” And he immediately ordered to take me to the cell. Then it turned out I missed 17 minutes of political information. The guys said it was the best lullaby.”
The trial took place in the temporary detention center: it turned out that Ales had another report for September 2nd.
“I read it — and I felt bad,” says Ales. “They didn’t call an ambulance, but the doctor provided professional help: for two hours she was helping me and did not let me go. When I was brought back to the cell, the guys were already convicted, and soon I was also given 15 days of prison for two episodes. I sighed with relief because I have already counted at least 25.”
“We don’t beat anymore — we have another way to violence.”
In the evening Ales was transferred to the detention center in Okrestina Street. The windows in the cell were open and the batteries were unheated. There were no boards on the beds, just metal railings. People were given buns and made to sleep in such cold.
“But at least it was possible to breathe — not like in the temporary detention center,” Ales smiles. “In the morning we were warned not to lean, to read — we were reading and laughing. And then we were taken out of the cell again, and at the exit, I noticed a detention center employee, about whom everyone had written before — a blonde Karina. All the pictures flashed up in my mind, and I asked her, “Oh, are you the killer who tortured our children, brothers, and sisters?” She bent her baton, whispered to the captain, everyone was taken back into the cell, and three minutes later I was invited to “talk”. I was taken to the first floor and told in some passage: “We are no longer killing or beating, we have another way to violence against you: we turn on the electric shocker, tie our arms and legs behind and put a gag in your throats so that you kept silent, shut up and didn’t even moan. “ I know what it is: the diaphragm doesn’t work, you gasp and lose consciousness. Then you come to your senses, make sense of it and lose consciousness again. ”
Ales may have gone through all this, but now he can’t say for sure: he lost consciousness and recovered in the courtyard of the detention center, which many people talked about after the August detentions.
“I started to go through all this on myself,” says Ales. “I started to look closely at the walls and noticed that the words “Long live Belarus!” written probably in blood appear through the fresh paint. Probably, they tried to paint them for Belarusian television or some check, but it’s not that easy to wash the blood away.”
In the cell, friends told Ales that he had been away for 2.5 hours, and at that time the whole floor was taken out to smoke.
“Till today, my palate is torn, my teeth and jaws hurt,” says Ales. “But I can’t remember what happened.”
“Brought to cell for life prisoners.”
Then Ales was transferred to Zhodino. There in the hallway, everyone was told to take things and run forward. You can’t lean against the wall. When you were late, they beat you on the legs.
“The most difficult thing is the stairwells,” he recalls. “When you run up the steps, you feel dizzy, but you can’t stop. A two-meter guy was running with us, it was difficult for him to fit in, and he injured his head — he was taken away by an ambulance. ”
Then a surprise was waiting for Ales: he was taken to a cell built for life prisoners.
“Metal doors, dirty conditions, light is not turned off even at night, the windows are sewn with metal plates, ”this is how Tolstyk describes the conditions in the cell. “There are 3–4 species of cockroaches. But one day I was put in a punishment cell. I was appointed a senior in the cell, and the guy washed his Adidas sneakers and put the bag up in a container. They said it was a mess, and sent the senior — me — to the punishment cell. I was sitting there with a mentally ill man, he was screaming and rushing at me. I asked them to bring me a book because I can’t stand it myself — they brought “The Witcher.”
The man says that the attitude to the arrested depended on the shift: there was a good attitude sometimes. For example, some even passed packages at night, allowed smoking carefully, and even treated us with cigarettes and passed chocolate to girls. But at the same time, when people were brought to prison after the Sunday protest action, they were driven down the corridor, rapping.
“There were a lot of them — we counted about 400 people,” recalls Ales. “People were brought all night then. By the way, we orientated in time by trains: one of the prisoners knew the schedule of the railway to Zhodzina”
And one ensign forbade Ales to use the Belarusian language. He said that until he learned to speak a normal language, no one would hear him here.
“One day we started shouting ‘Lukashenka to paddy wagon’ in the cell,” Tolstyk smiles. “After that, gas was spread into our cell. We began to suffocate, tears and snot were running — all as described. We were recovering, probably, for two hours, because then the shift changed, and we were even allowed to open the feeding window to ventilate a bit and were allowed to smoke in the cell.”
The last test was waiting for the activist at the exit: they spread a white-red-white flag on the threshold, go by themselves — and you should go too.
“I have already written a statement to the Investigative Committee about all the tortures,” says Ales. “Of course, I can leave the country at any moment, but I have already lived, traveled around the world, and now I am ready for any repression for my children.”