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Belarusian Activist Says He Was Tortured In Custody

Belarusian opposition activist Syarzhuk Paulyukevich
Belarusian opposition activist Syarzhuk Paulyukevich
MINSK -- A Belarusian opposition activist says he was subjected to torture while in KGB custody earlier this summer, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Syarzhuk Paulyukevich, who organized antigovernment street protests through the popular social networking website, made the allegations in a video posted on the Internet on September 3.

In it, Paulyukevich, the administrator of the "We Stand For Great Belarus" online group, says he was arrested on July 1 and sentenced to 15 days in jail on what he called "trumped-up charges."

Paulyukevich says that in detention he was beaten, suffocated, and forced to stand for several hours with a plastic bag over his head.

"They brought me to a cell, where two masked men wearing rubber gloves told me that they were officers of the military counterintelligence department," he says.

"The two men handcuffed me as tight as possible and put a plastic bag on my head, suffocating me.

"Then they started hitting me on my head. They clutched the ring finger on my left hand with something so hard that it has been numb for more than a month.

"One of them seized my Adam's apple with his two fingers and started pulling it out after which it hurt me to swallow even my saliva.

"And naturally, they put me on a stretch vice, making me nearly do the splits. Handcuffed, I was standing with the plastic bag on my head for almost two or three hours while they questioned me."

According to Paulyukevich, he had to sign an agreement to cooperate with the KGB in order to avoid further suffering.

He says the agreement he was made to sign under torture is not valid, adding that he has never collaborated with any secret services and would never do so.

He also said police confiscated his mobile phone and his passport when they arrested him, and that his mother's apartment was searched on July 14 "without either search warrant or witnesses."

Paulyukevich called on Belarus's prosecutor-general to launch a criminal case against the KGB.

There has been no official reaction to Paulyukevich's allegations.

Paulyukevich is the latest opposition activist to allege torture at the hands of the KGB during the crackdown against government opponents that followed December's disputed presidential election.

In February, former presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich compared the KGB pretrial detention center where he was held for two months to a concentration camp, saying he was subjected to torture there.

Mikhalevich said guards made him stand outside naked in the freezing cold, deprived him of sleep, dragged him on the floor while handcuffed, kept him in an overcrowded cell, and interrogated him without a lawyer present.

Mikhalevich was granted political asylum in the Czech Republic in March.

Read and watch more in Belarusian here