Updated at 17:11,20-07-2018

Imprisoned Mikalay Awtukhovich cuts his stomach in protest against new reprimand


Mikalay Awtukhovich, a businessman widely viewed as a political prisoner, cut his stomach with a razor in protest against a new reprimand by the prison administration.

Andrey Bandarenka, chairman of a human rights organization called Platform Innovation, told BelaPAN on Thursday morning with reference to its source that the 50-year-old Awtukhovich had already been put back into his cell in Prison No. 1 in Hrodna, and that his health condition was "satisfactory."

Platform Innovation reported earlier in the day with reference to a prison source that the reprimand was issued to Mr. Awtukhovich on September 4 for allegedly failing go to bed on time on the night of August 26. As a result, he will not be able to receive food parcels and meet with family members on the same terms as fellow inmates.

For two years, the prison administration has imposed new penalties on Mr. Awtukhovich just as restrictions for previous "disciplinary offenses" were about to be lifted, the report said. Mr. Awtukhovich tried very hard to get rid of the status of a persistent violator of prison rules and painstakingly avoided anything that could result in a new penalty. In addition, he stopped trying to contact the media after the prison administration promised that pressure on his prison friends would end if he did that. However, the administration has broken its promise and actually made life even more difficult for Mr. Awtukhovich and his associates.

Platform Innovation's source described the new charge against Mr. Awtukhovich as false, noting that it came a month before previous restrictions on his freedom were to be removed.

On May 6, 2010, the Supreme Court of Belarus sentenced Mikalay Awtukhovich, a resident of Vawkavysk, to five years and two months in a medium-security correctional institution under the Criminal Code's Article 295, which penalizes the illegal handling of arms, ammunition and explosives, because of five hunting rifle cartridges found at his home.

Mr. Awtukhovich, who had already spent more than a year in jail, was cleared of charges of "preparations for an act of terrorism" against Uladzimir Sawchanka, then head of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee, and Deputy Tax Minister Vasil Kamyanko, and of involvement in an arson attack on the house of a former chief of the Vawkavysk district police department.

In December 2011, Mr. Awtukhovich was placed in a "cell-type room" in punishment for an unspecified offense. Two days later, he reportedly cut his wrists after being transferred to a room holding people at the very bottom of prison hierarchy who are shunned by fellow inmates.

In a trial held in Correctional Institution No. 5 in Ivatsevichy, Brest region, in January 2012, a judge of the Ivatsevichy District Court found Mr. Awtukhovich guilty of persistent violations of prison rules and ordered his transfer to a cell-type prison.

Opposition activists and human rights defenders believe that the charges against Mr. Awtukhovich were trumped up in revenge for his criticism and corruption accusations. In December 2010, US-based Freedom House entered his name in its list of the world's most important imprisoned dissidents.