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Report: Ukraine protesters ‘safer behind bars’

Video by Abdallah MALKAWI , Gulliver CRAGG , Jonathan WALSH

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-04

For the Ukrainian activists protesting against the government of President Viktor Yanukovich, the possibility of arrest is a constant threat. There have even been claims of abduction and torture of protest leaders.

Olesya Mamchych, a writer and illustrator, knows all too well the risks facing Ukraine’s anti-government demonstrators. On the night of January 22nd, her husband, Oleksandr, failed to come home.

Oleksandr was one of the leaders of the Automaidan protest movement, which organises motorised demonstrations outside the homes of Ukrainian officials – something the whole family has participated in.

He was with 17 other members that evening when riot police, belonging to Ukraine’s “Berkut” special forces, attacked. Olesya found her husband in custody the following afternoon.

Authorities a ‘pirate organisation’

“First they beat them, then they made them take off their outer clothing, even though it was -12 (degrees Celsius), and they kept them like that for nearly two hours,” she tells FRANCE 24. “They ordered my husband to chant “glory to the Berkut”.

“The authorities behave like a sort of pirate organisation that takes hostages in order to cut deals. And even the clearest proof of innocence doesn’t influence the courts.”

Oleksandr is now in detention awaiting trial. However, he is one of more than a hundred prisoners who could be released if a new amnesty bill is negotiated this week.
Olesya though is not holding out much hope for the bill and even believes her husband may better off staying in custody.

“They might release them and then take them again the next day and it would be worse. I was happy to find my husband at the police station and not in the woods,” she says.

“As long as this lot are in power people like my husband are safer behind bars than free.”

With recent claims by Automaidan leader Dmytro Bulatov that he was abducted, beaten and "crucified' over an eight-day period, not to mention the shooting of two protesters in Kiev last month, Olesya may be entitled to fear the worse for her husband should he be released.

Date created : 2014-02-04

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