Olga Zolotar Reported Torture, Lawyers Saw Bruises On Her Neck And Hands

Olga Zolotar, a mother of five children from the village of Zhdanovichi, was detained on 18 March. She has been in custody for the third week, now she is in a pre-trial detention centre on Volodarskogo Street. According to TUT.BY, during interrogations, Olga stated that physical force was used against her during the arrest. Lawyers found bruises on her arms, neck and buttocks.

In August 2020, Olga Zolotar volunteered in a camp near the isolation facility on Okrestin Street

Olga Zolotar was detained on 18 March, when she was taking her 10-year-old daughter to a music school. She was detained by the GUBOPiK officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who on that day searched her house. After that, she was taken to the office on Revolutionary Street in Minsk, where, according to Olga, physical force was used against her, her lawyer Andrei Mochalov told TUT.BY.

“During interrogation by the investigator, Olga pointed to the facts of torture three times. The GUBOPiK demanded that she unlock the gadgets and share all information about herself. She decided to exercise her right not to incriminate herself. After that, my client said, they beat her on the back of her head and buttocks, twisted her arms, and pressed her head to the ground. When we met her, she had many injuries, bruises on her arms and neck, bruises on her buttocks.”

According to Andrei Mochalov, he filed a petition to summon and involve a forensic expert in order to register the injuries on Olga Zolotar’s body. Until now, according to his information, the specialist has not visited his client.

“We also wrote a petition to the investigator so that she would conduct an examination and describe the body’s damage. This was also not done. In my opinion, there is an attempt to hide the marks of torture,” he added.

On 26 March, Olga Zolotar was charged with creating an extremist group. She allegedly coordinated local protest activities via the “Zhdanovichi 2020 – Tsoi’s Song Lovers Club” telegram chat. There are just over 600 people in the chat. Olga completely denies her guilt. On 31 March, the Partizansky District Court of Minsk considered the complaint against the decision to impose a preventive measure in the form of detention but rejected it. Olga Zolotar remains in pre-trial detention centre No. 1 on Volodarskogo Street.

On 2 April, human rights activists declared Olga Zolotar a political prisoner.

In August 2020, Olga Zolotar was an election observer. After 9 August, she became a volunteer in the camp on Okrestin Street. In the autumn of 2020, a police report was drawn up against her for drinking tea in one of the courtyards of the Zhdanovichi neighbourhood. The court sentenced her to a fine.

On January 28, 2021, she was detained for petty hooliganism – she together with her neighbour cleaned up black paint from a mural depicting Pavel Latushko. There was no trial on this case. The next time the woman was detained literally three days later when she was waiting for her friend near the Tsentralny supermarket. Then Olga spent several days in an isolation centre in the 1st Okrestin lane.

On 18 March, her husband Sergei Gankevich was detained – a police report was drawn up against him for unauthorized picketing. He allegedly hung out a white-red-white flag in the window of his house after his wife’s arrest. In the evening he was summoned to the district police station and detained, and the next day he was sentenced to 10 days of arrest under Article 24.23 of the Administrative Code.

As the Ministry of Internal Affairs later reported, a criminal case was opened against Olga Zolotar “for active protest activity.” According to the police, the woman was the administrator of the local courtyard chat and, since last summer, the organizer of unauthorized mass events, “the so-called tea parties, walks, concerts.” On Friday, 26 March, Olga Zolotar was charged under Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code [Creation of an extremist group or management of such a group or its structural subdivision].

Olga Zolotar lives in Zhdanovichi, together with her husband they are raising five children from four to 17 years old.