Mikola Statkevich: “We won’t play under scenario of authorities”

Mikola Statkevich, leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada), says in case the authorities don’t liberalise the election process, the European coalition will support boycott of the parliamentary elections.

It should be reminded that Mikola Statkevich was arrested on 1 May for participation in the official May Day rally, where he came together with activists of the civil campaign “European Belarus” and hoisted EU flags.

– Mr Mikola, how can you comment on your arrest at the official rally on 1 May?

– I thank all activists of the “European Belarus” campaign, who came to that action. I think that political leaders must go ahead in order the struggle for democracy not to turn into “Crusade” against the youth. The youth is most of all interested in changes, its best part participates in such actions. I regret that in spite of all my attempts to attract attention to myself and do not give evidence, which may be used against the youth, many young people were brutally detained. It is strange, even a dog doesn’t bite the hand that feeds. I heard on militia radio set an order “take European flags,” though the Belarusian budget reposes on oil products speculation to Europe.

– Were you maltreated in a militia department or in the detention center on Akrestin Street?

– On the rally, when a part of the “European Belarus” activists began to hoist European flags, riot militia officers run up to them. I was near them, at a distance of 10 meters, and, I took a megaphone earlier than I had planned and began to speak about subjective of the “European Belarus” campaign to draw the attention to myself. I was detained after some minutes, then kept in a armoured militia car. Having been guarded to the Pershamaiski district militia department, I was sad to see 25 detained young people there. Some of them had torn cloths, it was seen that they had been dragged on the ground. I said to militiamen their actions were unlawful, the EU flags were not unregistered symbols. I refused to participate in the trial, because the judge violated the Constitution and wasn’t able to hold the trial in Belarusian, and because such trials had turned into comedy long ago.

I apparently broke their plans. The attitude to me changed rapidly. I was searched two times in the militia department. An officer, conducting the inquiry, was so zealous turning my pockets out! How glad he was, how he shouted that he had found a “piercing” object on me! It was an ordinary toothpick…

Then I was guarded to a cage in the militia department – a small room with no light and fresh air, where I was kept for 12 hours! I was searched again in the detention center on Akrestin Street. I remember I was searched three times for some hours! Militia officers apparently received an order to find fault with me. They possibly wanted to add me some days of arrest. But I began to ask the militiamen for how long they were going to violate the law. After that they clapped door and went away…

– What did cause such an attitude?

– The reaction of the authorities is typical. It seems they are afraid of plans of the “European Belarus” on visualisation of pro-European sentiments of a considerable part of the Belarusian society. However, I think I took it easier than any other youth activist. Every political leader is protected by his or her popularity, solidarity of partners from other countries.

– While you were serving the arrest, coordinator of Charter’97 Zmitser Bandarenka put forward a suggestion to boycott the coming parliamentary elections. What is your attitude to this initiative?

– I can introduce a position by the European Coalition, whose members, besides the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) are the Party of Freedom and Progress and the Young Front. The position was formulated yet last summer. The opposition should use every opportunity of the electoral campaign, carrying on agitation is easier during elections because fewer repressions are organised. But at the same time we mustn’t play under someone’s scenario. We reserve the right to stop the campaign at any stage of the electoral campaign, if we see the authorities not going to change the Electoral Code or change the code practice. We will take a decision after registration of our candidates. If we see that the authorities want to offer us to play in an electoral comedy with previously casted roles, we will stop the participation in the electoral campaign. We will take part in the elections only if political prisoners are released (in order there was no atmosphere of fear in the society), advance voting, which is rigged, is cancelled, and observers are permitted to control counting of votes.