October 11, 2012
The human rights defender Valentin Stefanovich received a letter from Ales Bialiatski stating that a visit from Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Pope’s representative in Minsk, saved him from punitive confinement. “The Nuncio’s arrival was a complete surprise. He brought me the Pope’s blessings and support, and I thanked him for their concern about political prisoners,” wrote Ales. In his letter, he also explained that on September 20, a sixth punishment was handed down to him. A previous punishment was issued on September 13.
“On September 19, I was written up ‘for sleep.’ I wrote an explanation that I had not been sleeping, but ‘in a state of contemplation.’ This is a physical state close to meditation. It helps to distract attention from difficult thoughts. Unlike sleep, I can come out of it relatively quickly and think clearly. I also wrote that I will soon turn 50 and that it would be inhumane to place me in punitive confinement. Then I pointed out that I have five reward points in my table, probably for work, and I asked them to count these against my punishment. Since I work the second shift, I don’t get the regular eight hours of sleep. Nevertheless, I was taken to the clinic to check my health after lunch on the 20th. This is usually done before a prisoner is punished with days in punitive confinement. But after lunch, the whole episode ended with ‘an extra shift.’ Why it worked out this way, I don’t know. Maybe the explanation I wrote helped, but it was most likely due to the Nuncio’s visit.”
Later Valentin Stefanovich received a postcard from Ales, where he wrote that seven punishments have been handed down to him over seven months in prison. This means that one more punishment came after September 20. The chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center continues to have the status of “persistent violator of regulations.”