Until recently, Mikita was a typical teenager. He liked playing Minecraft and listening to rap music. Today, the 17-year-old who also has epilepsy has been cast into a world worse than Minecraft’s hellish Nether.
It all began in August 2020, says Mikita’s dad, when Mikita was waiting for a friend in the main square of Homel city, southeastern Belarus. Nearby, people had been largely peacefully protesting the recent presidential election results when police moved in. According to Mikita’s father, as the crowd began running, someone told Mikita to run too – so he did.
The following day – 11 August – police officers came to Mikita’s door. They arrested and beat him, accusing him of throwing a Molotov cocktail towards two officers at the protest. While holding him in custody, they beat him with an electric shock truncheon. Officers interrogated him without a lawyer or responsible adult present, and locked him up for six months - including in solitary confinement which for minors amounts to torture - before putting him on trial.
Mikita was convicted of mass disorder and using illegal explosives, yet video footage showed no evidence of him taking part in violence. Media reports on the demonstrations mentioned no mass unrest. Still, the judge sentenced Mikita to five years in a child educational prison colony.
Mikita was just a teenage boy waiting for his friend when he was swept up in a crowd. Then his whole world changed. International pressure makes all the difference in cases like his.
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