Viktor Gerasimenya, aged 60, a father of three-time Olympic medalist Aleksandra Gerasimenya, shared the details of his detention during the protest rally on Sunday, 1 November.
“I was detained on Sunday at about 2 pm. I was walking along the sidewalk near the watch factory. There were a lot of people around, I saw that the law enforces were coming… But I was walking along the sidewalk not in the roadway, I did not break any law.
Tinted minibuses drove up and people in black ran out of them. But I didn’t run away, I was walking along the sidewalk, I thought they won’t have any problems with me, since I didn’t violate anything. And then two men in black came up to me, took me by the arms. I didn’t resist.
One took me into a car, into the minibus. They shoved us, three people in a so-called ‘glass cell’ designed for one person. One of them, a middle-aged man, over 50 years old, was sitting with one sneaker, the second fell down during the arrest, so he was not allowed to put it on.”
Viktor Gerasimenya says that the detainees were taken to the Oktyabrsky district internal affairs office.
“They drew up reports for participating in an unauthorized rally and disobeying the police during arrest. I wrote that I disagree with this. Then we were summoned one by one to some office, where a female investigator was sitting. She explained that all the detainees were potential witnesses or suspects in a criminal case.
That is, defendants in the case. She gave me a paper to sign, I wrote that I did not participate in any rally, did not shout slogans. The report didn’t indicate whether I was a witness or a suspect in the case. Then we were sitting for five or six hours in a small cell, before they put put in a paddy wagon and took to Zhodino.”
There was no physical violence, Viktor admits that the detainees were even surprised by this.
“But there was moral humiliation, they treated us as some kind of half-animals. We are not criminals, there was no trial. We are just citizens. And they put us in a paddy wagon and ordered: sit down, put your heads down, hands on the knees, palms up, sit quiet. When getting off: run, head down! I have always considered myself a decent person, and they treated me as if I was a criminal.
I have never been in custody or behind bars before, this happened for the first time in my life. It was not scary. It was unpleasant, 18 people were forced into a cell without mattresses. There were eight sleeping places in the cell. And it was already 2 am, people were deadly tired, and slept where they could – some on the table, others on the floor. There was no air to breathe.
It was, to put it mildly, uncomfortable. But people turned out to be friendly, supported each other. It was nice. People of different ages, from 18 to 60. Educated, normal, adequate, many have their own business. The police themselves asked us: ‘You have good lives, why are you taking to the streets?’
At about 7 am, they gave us some porridge. I didn’t eat. We drank tea, a little water. The trial took place there. They brought me into a room, where a judge and his assistant. I did not have a lawyer with a pre-signed contract, but when my daughter found out that I was detained she dealt with the issue. And before the trial I got a lawyer.
However, for a trial with a lawyer, as the judge told me, she would have to postpone the case and I would have to spend another day in the cell. So I said that we would not wait for a lawyer. Moreover, I already thought that they would sentence me to 15 days of arrest, whether I have a lawyer or not.”
At the trial, Viktor Gerasimenya did not admit his guilt.
“There were no witnesses, only their testimony was read out: I allegedly resisted, pushed them, tried to escape. I told the judge: ‘I’m not a boy, I’m a former athlete. If I would like to run away, they would have to restrain me and I would have signs of a struggle on my body. I don’t have them, I can undress to show them.’ But for the court, my testimony was nothing. Only the words of the police were taken into account.
I accepted the situation as it is. As a result, I was fined with five basic units. The judge said that she took into account the fact that I had no previous convictions and violations, and my age. They immediately gave me a piece of paper with information on where to pay, and that was it, next! I left the room, and there was a line people facing the wall with hands behind their backs. This is how they were waiting for the trial. My trial took about five minutes, tops, I guess.”
After that, the 60-year-old was released.
“Volunteers are always on watch at a detention facility in Zhodino. Their work left a very, very positive impression. They immediately write down your data, pass it on to your family, give you a phone to call your relatives, put you in a car and take home. A man drove me and five other people to Minsk, called us taxi to take us home.
He had sausage, water, nuts, so we could eat something on the way. While I was away, my relatives were worried, of course. Nobody knew at first where I was, what happened to me, where I disappeared. I would also like to thank Vesna activists who learned about my detention and informed my family.”