Until recently, Mikita Zalatarou 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 him, beating and accusing him of throwing a Molotov cocktail towards two officers the night before. 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 before putting him on trial.
Mikita was convicted of mass disorder and using illegal explosives, yet video evidence did not show 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.
Tell Belarus to release Mikita and give him a fair trial.