The story of a student who was beaten up for refusing to unlock his mobile phone
16 September 2020, 12:03 | Nasha Niva
A 21-year-old student from Minsk University was brutally detained in the evening of 12 September near the Victory Square metro station. The moment of his arrest was captured in the footage of “Nasha Niva” and TUT.BY. After being transported in a bus with no license plate, accompanied by people in olive green uniforms and balaclavas, the guy eventually ended up in the hospital, where he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, moderate brain hemorrhage, a nasal fracture and multiple bruises on his body. A student from Minsk told spring96.org what happened to him after his detention at Victory Square and before his hospitalisation.
“We know everything about you, you are the coordinator from Poland”
“Around half past six I was standing by the metro station and looking at an online map on my phone, I was going to meet up with some friends. There were many journalists nearby at the time. As I later learned, the march had just ended in the city. As soon as I looked up from the phone, people in olive green uniforms and balaclavas ran up to me and punched me in the face. They dragged me into a bus with no license plate, my nose was bleeding.”
As soon as they put me on the bus, they kicked me to the floor. I received several blows to the face all at once. I was punched with closed fists. They said right at the beginning: “That’s it, we know everything about you, you’re the coordinator from Poland”. They were using some general phrases. It was obvious that they were trying to intimidate me. They didn’t say anything more specific, but they said that they had been after me for a long time. They insisted that I confess to something. They tried to intimidate me psychologically so that I would confess to being some sort of a coordinator. During this “conversation” they were hitting my legs, face, head and back. Although I can no longer remember being hit on the back, later I found bruises on my back. I couldn’t feel it, probably because of the pain and being in shock.
On the bus, they put me on the floor between the seats. I was the only detainee and there were five of them, people in uniforms. I turned off the phone that I had in my right hand and threw it under the seat. When they found it, they said: “Look who’s so clever, he thought we wouldn’t find it,” and they would start beating me again. He said that I was “well prepared” as I turned off my phone. Then they started “beating the password out of me”. They were threatening me. I was not telling them what my password was, to which they reacted by saying that I was a “drug addict on a fix”. I was being beaten non-stop, I was screaming in pain, they tried to break my leg. They tried to unlock the phone by forcely putting my finger on it. They were poking my finger in a metal thing on the body of the phone designed for a car magnet. When they realised that it wasn’t a “fingerprint scanner”, they started pointing my fingers at the camera.
“Other security officers started taking off my shorts and my underwear”
Then, at one point, their “boss” who was sitting in front of the bus took out his baton and said: “Do you know where we will put this if you don’t tell us the password? Both in your throat and we’ll rape you with it. Well, boys, let’s go”. At that time, other policemen began taking off my shorts and my underwear. I resisted as much as I could. I hoped that they would stop. And they did. Everything turned out to be only threats. It was very scary and unpleasant, but I tried to restrain myself in this situation as much as possible.
They tried to scare me by saying they will serve me with criminal charges, which would result in a five-year imprisonment. They said: “Did you have a bad life before?” I tried to tell them that I was not participating in any rallies, I wasn’t shouting slogans, which could be proven by the location where I was detained. However, the more I tried to reason with them, the angrier they got, and so they would hit me even harder.
At one point, they put a zip-tie on my hands and were tightening it up more and more. The constant beatings made me feel worse and worse. On the bus, I almost fainted or was close to it. Then they poured water on me. I heard them: “Guys, guys, don’t hit him yet, wait”. Apparently, they do have some limits or restrictions. Although I’m not sure you can call it a “limit”, keeping in mind the condition I ended up in, and other stories of torture during arrests. This is by all means a gross violation of human rights.
At some point, the bus stopped. I heard: “Guys, wipe him off”, because my nose was bleeding that entire time. They wiped me with my own jacket and poured more water on me. Then they put me at the door of the bus. At this time, one of them came up to me with a camera and started asking questions: “What were you coordinating? Tell me!” To what I said I was not coordinating anything, I was just passing by.
“Leave him without children”
Then they got back in the car and drove around town again. The driver told me: “Do you realise that we can be driving this way as long as we want?” Beatings, intimidation and threats continued. For example, they said: “Monsters like you will be slaughtering our children”. They complained about strong pressure.
There was a moment when I tried to talk to them as humanly as possible, to which they all responded in the same way: “Are you recording us?” They started beating me up again, undressing me and looking for the microphone that they thought I used to record them on. They said that if I recorded them, they would find me. They are very afraid that someone will record them.
They read the news on the phone, discussed, laughed: “Look, guys, we have one week left to quit the law enforcement, or we’ll be done”. Everyone was laughing. Obviously, they sincerely believe in the state propaganda of “coordinators from Lithuania and Poland”.
He asked if I had a girlfriend. When I said no, they started calling me “rear-wheel drive” [ed. remark: referring to homosexualism]. They started threatening to rape me again. They said: “Let’s leave him without children!” They started hitting me, thankfully not in the area they were meaning to hit.
I was wearing a Samsung electronic watch. One of the men took it off and started looking at my contacts. They asked about some names, why they were called exactly like this in my contact list. When they saw the lawyer’s number, they started accusing me again that I was “prepared for being detained, that I was a coordinator”.
“If you don’t tell us your password, you won’t get out of here”
I was taken to Pervomayskiy police station. When I entered the building, I limped because the law enforcement officers beat my leg off. They shouted that I shouldn’t limp. The security forces told me that I fell on my own during the detention. Policemen from the station asked the law enforcement officers if I resisted the arrest, to which they replied that I stumbled and fell down myself.
I was also threatened by police officers at the station. One of them said: “Well, guys, so he doesn’t want to give us his password? Is the baton not helping? That’s alright, a soldering iron up to his ass will help.” In the department itself, the policemen were more careful in their actions. Probably because the cameras are hanging there. There were threats whispered in my ear. For example: “If you don’t give us the password, you won’t get out of here”. They would often step on my feet. But when someone grabbed my hair and hit me in the back of the head, they stopped each other: “Calm down, not here.”
When someone called the police station and probably asked if anyone was taken to Pervomaysky station, the duty officer replied: “Nobody was brought here, nobody was taken away”. However, there were for sure two girls, who were also accused of taking part in the rally. But the policemen did not touch them, on the contrary, they were joking and flirting with them.
When one of the officers walked me to the toilet, he asked: “Have you ever been dipped in the toilet with your head? Do you want to try?” My hands were so clenched with the zip-tie that I couldn’t even make a “boat” with my hands to get some water for washing. I couldn’t press my hands together, water was constantly flowing out of them. I was dried off with the hood of my own sweatshirt. The attempts to intimidate me were constant. I often asked for the doctor, I was constantly saying that I am not feeling well. They replied: “Give us the password and there will be a doctor”. They played “good and bad cop”, sometimes it could even be the same person: first he would beat me, and then reassure me that everything was fine.
“They used antiseptics to bring me back to consciousness”
While the security officers were beating, intimidating, threatening me, stepping on my feet and pulling my hair, the staff of the Pershamaiski District Internal Affairs Office did not even look in my direction or approach me. They just did nothing.
At the police station, security officers and policemen tried to find out my password to the phone. They used phrases such as: “Here we have very good hackers, they will hack your phone, so if you don’t give it to us yourself you will regret it.”
The law enforcement officials discussed in front of me that I could be “classified” in Section 205 of the Criminal Code (“thief”), that I allegedly stole my own electronic watch and phone from one of them, and because I didn’t tell them the password it might not be my phone. It may have been a joke, but at the time I did not take it as a joke. They said that I am a drug addict, that I was intoxicated.
“They asked the ambulance to go faster and with flashing lights”
When the law enforcement officers were leaving the police station, they told the policemen not to call an ambulance because I was faking it. I was brought back to consciousness with antiseptics: they sprayed it on my hands and on my head. In the bus and in the police station they were pressing on my jaw for me to regain consciousness. At the police station they brought me a handkerchief with something sprayed on it and said: “Breathe, breathe”. But I was becoming less and less receptive to information from outside. They called the ambulance after they saw me barely sitting on a chair, falling down.
They were asked to go faster and with flashlights, and they were holding me up all the time so I wouldn’t fall. After the ambulance was called, they put me on the floor and were watching me closely.
When the ambulance arrived, the police asked the doctors if they thought I was faking it. The doctors said that I have to go to the hospital. The policeman at that time tried to call his boss to ask him if they should leave my phone at the police station. At the time, the policemen said that if I didn’t tell them the password now, I would have to go back to the police office. However, I didn’t have the strength to answer: I was just lying there half-conscious. As a result, they threw me my torn backpack, which was covered with blood, and my phone.
Now the student is being treated in a hospital. The doctors diagnosed him with a traumatic brain injury, moderate brain haemorrhage, a nasal fracture, multiple hematomas and injuries.