Jailed for 15 days for exposing Lukashenka’s rigged elections: the story of Marta, one of 150 arrested observers

Belarus filmmaker Marta-Daria Klinava, one of some 5,000 detained in Belarus. Photo from Klinava’s personal page. 

International

Article by: Olena Makarenko
Belarus is engulfed in mass detentions. The first wave pounded the country immediately after the 9 August 2020 vote, as law enforcers began detaining independent observers without cause. The magnitude of detentions accelerated as people took to the streets protesting the falsified results of the elections and are ongoing. Since 11 August, at least 5,000 people have been detained as reported by local media. Euromaidan Press talked to the mother of one of the observers who had gone missing for two days. She was finally found in detention, sentenced to 15 days in confinement. The interview took place via mobile since the Internet has been shut down across the country. This is but one of hundreds of stories illustrating how the dictatorship regime of incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka represses its people.

Marta-Daria Klinava is a Belarusian film director and an ally of Ukraine. Last year, together with the Ukrainian director Larysa Artiugina, she completed the documentary My Father, about the daughter of a Ukrainian fighter who was killed in the Donbas war. Klinava also took part in a mentorship project for youth living on the edge of the war zone in the town of Shchastia, Luhansk Oblast, where she trained local teenagers in filmmaking.

During the Belarus presidential election, Klinava was an independent observer in the Minsk polling station #50, which had been set up in her courtyard. In her last message to her mother before being detained she managed to get across some details of the sham process.

“The election is not an election, but a farce. At the early [voting] we calculated 30 people, while the protocols said there were 200. Of course, I knew they were lying. But to such an extent! And of course, we were kicked out. They shouted at us, and didn’t allow us to take pictures and film anything. So all the independent observers just sat on the stairs. Except for the turnout numbers, we were not able to register anything.”

Vitaly Rymashevsky, coordinator of the Right to Choice 2020 campaign, said there has never been such wide suppression of independent observers. They were unprecedented and have never been seen in the history of all past elections.

Klinava’s mother Natalia described what was the situation once the voting ended. She said that people gathered in the schoolyard to wait for the election results and to meet the observers, but no one emerged. People started protesting. Then a paddy wagon arrived. Mothers rolled out baby carriages to block its path. The paddy wagon headed to the schoolyard. Klinava and other observers left the building, while law enforcers in civil clothing attacked them from behind. She tried to resist, but they tore off her clothes.

The whereabouts of Klinava were unknown for two days. Her mother finally found her in a local temporary-detention facility. Still, after finding her daughter, Natalia was not able to see her and was only allowed to pass on her clothing and medications as Marta-Daria asked. A lawyer was also not allowed to visit Klinava. Her mobile with which she had filmed election violations had been confiscated.

The formal court hearing took place on 11 August, sentencing Klinanva to 15 days. She was convicted under two articles of Belarus law —  hooliganism and disobedience to the police. She started to cry when she heard the verdict. Falsely imprisoned, she remains unaware of the tumultuous events in Minsk.

After the verdict, law enforcers have not communicated at all with the relatives and friends of any of the detained.

Arising from gross violations and fabrications of the presidential elections, the preliminary results have shown an overwhelming victory for Lukashenka. According to a preliminary tally by the Central Election Commission, he won 80.08% of the votes while his opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya received 10.09%.

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The election outcome has catalyzed people to take to the streets. The country was beleaguered by major Internet disruption. Nevertheless, thousands were protesting in at least 33 Belarus cities. Law enforcers have used every form of brutality to try and disperse crowds —  beatings, shootings, tear gas, and flashbang grenades. On the first day of protest, some 3,000 people were detained, and on the second day, 2,000 more. Among those apprehended were activists of the Viasna Human Rights Center, as well as journalists and observers. Documentary film director Maksim Shved, who recorded all the events, has gone missing.

According to the Viasna human rights center, independent observers took the main blow of the Belarusian regime these elections.

Viasna was one of the coordinators of the campaign “Human rights defenders for free elections,” which had nominated 798 observers to the polling stations. Of them, only 93 observers were able to observe various stages of the election campaign (both early voting and the main day) for just a couple of hours. Only one observer was able to observe the entire voting process, and only 3 observers were included in the vote count. More than 30 observers were stripped of their accreditation.

In total, about 150 observers were detained —  these include all observers, not only those participating in the campaign.

“The institute of observation was the main target of the repressive machine,” said Vladimir Labkovich, one of the campaign’s coordinators, during a press conference organized by Viasna. “The prohibition of observing elections at polling stations violates the norms of the Constitution and norms of the Election Code.”

Read more about Viasna’s assessment of the election: 5,000 detained as Belarus protests against rigged elections second day in a row, national strike announced

The Viasna center collects data on detainees and aims to provide financial and legal assistance to them.

Readers can support victims of repression and their families by sending a donation to @By_help – a civic campaign that collects funds to help detainees and their families with their basic needs, such as payment of fines, access to lawyers, compensation for loss of their only source of income, as well as much needed medical support to the injured.

Since 2017, the campaign has gathered tens-of-thousands of US dollars, all of which have been donated to those in need.

Support the fundraising by donating here:

www.belarus97.pro

or https://www.facebook.com/donate/1123543824684874/1179674872398974/

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directly to [email protected]

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Edited by: Sonia Maryn, Alya Shandra, Yuri Zoria

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