Belarusian dissident Igor Koktysh once again arrested in Zhytomyr

Belarusian youth activist and rock musician, Igor Koktysh, who spent two and a half years in custody in Crimea because the Belarusian authorities were demanding his extradition, has again been arrested, this time with his wife and three friends.


The local outlet “20 minutes” reports the words of Iryna Tiutiunyk, head of the Zhytomyr Amnesty International Initiative Group and Igor’s wife.  She says that the police have burst into the flat and planted marihuana, and are taking them to the station.


Reporters arrived and found 10 men in plain clothes walking around the flat.  One of them identified himself as an officer from the Anti-Narotics Department of the Zhytomyr Regional MIA.  They were not eager to speak with the press and asserted only that drugs had been found in the flat. They also failed to present the official witnesses required by law.


Iryna Tiutiunyk, called out from another room that the witnesses were addressing each other by name, and said that the officers had brought their own people. Following these words, the police shove the journalists from “20 Minutes” out of the flat, removing the video camera they were using to film what was happening.


Ms Tiutiunyk, says that the police officers had claimed that they were looking for a person on the wanted list.


Besides Igor Koktysh and his wife, there were three Belarusian nationals in the flat, a married couple Tetyana and Vitaly Tyshchenki and Artyom Dubsky.


The journalists were able to speak with Igor Koktysh as he was being taken out of the flat.  “I don’t know what this is.  The Belarusians may be waiting for us there. It’s all going like a normal special operation. They came in, got us all on the ground, while we were lying there not moving, they freely wandered around the flat as much as they wanted. The witnesses (ponyati] know the names of all the cops. And then they find this marihuana. They opened a journal and a bit of it spilled out. I know definitely that there wasn’t any there. It’s obvious where it appeared from.”


The MIA gave the reporters no comment and did not explain why a search had been carried out and why these people were in custody.


It is not known where they are at present.


All those detained have been living in Zhytomyr and say that they cannot feel free in Belarus.


Igor Koktysh was released in February 2010 after two and a half years in the Simferopol SIZO [pre-trial detention centre]. The 29-year-old’s extradition had been sought by Belarus supposedly because he was suspected of committing a serious crime in his own country.  The European Court of Human Rights in December last year found that Ukraine would be violating Article 3 (prohibition of torture and ill-treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights if it sent Igor back to Belarus. The Court also found that there had been violations of Article 3 over the conditions of Koktysh’ detention and transportation and of Article 5, (the right to liberty and personal security.   In June 2009 70 representatives of human rights organizations signed an appeal calling for Igor Koktysh’ release, and a letter was also presented from Amnesty International.


Vitaly Tyshchenki was also tried for fraud and they also “found” drugs and weapons in his flat after he took part in protest actions by businesspeople.  Artyom Dubsky also faced a barrage of similar charges after analogous protest actions.


This is an extremely worrying development and close attention is vital both from within Ukraine and abroad.  


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