Political prisoner Ihar Losik ends 42 day long hunger strike

The week after midsummer 2020, Belarusian blogger and freelance journalist Ihar Losik was brutally arrested by the Belarusian secret service. Losik, 28 years old and with a newly born daughter at home, was charged with ”organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order” and brought to the Akrestsina prison. The Akrestsina prison has been internationall recognised as one of the most hardline detainment centers in Belarus, with several documented cases of torture.

On December 15th 2020, fresh charges were presented to Ihar Losik. Belarusian authorities charged him under Article 342 of the Criminal Code – ”preparation for participation in mass riots”. This could eventually lead to over 8 years sentence in Belarusian high security prison. When Ihar Losik was faced with these charges, he decided to start a hunger strike.

The hunger strike of Ihar Losik has stirred a new pressure on the dictatorship of Lukashenko, which has previously experienced severe backlashes in its strife to remain in power at all costs. It added to the personal failure of Aleksandr Lukashenko as it was announced that the long planned International Championships of icehockey, scheduled to be held in Belarus and Latvia 2021, was withdrawn from Belarus.

The past weekend, Belarus saw one of the largest days of peaceful protests as thousands of people took to the streets in rallies of solidarity of Ihar Losik. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called for his immediate relase. As did Jan Eliasson, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, who released a statement on Twitter, stating ”Violent repression of opposition in Belarus is doomed to fail. Time is running out but there is still a chance for the government to change course, release political prisoners and start serious dialogue.”

And after 42 days, Ihar Losik ended his hunger strike. His lawyer – one of few people being able to meet with Losik in his prison – issued a statement from Losik. The decision to end the hunger strike was because of Losiks deteriorating health, the lack of medical assistance in his prison and the fact that his hunger strike had resounding effect. It was reported that dozens of other political prisoners had started hunger striking themselves in solidarity with Ihar Losik.

In his statement, Ihar Losik said:

”And I know that many also went on hunger strikes while I was on hunger strike too. I cannot take on such a great burden of responsibility, I do not want others to suffer due to my conscious choice. When reading all your requests in the letters, I realized that I simply cannot upset and make my family and all of you worry.

I never had a desire to somehow stand out, I did not seek publicity.

I just wanted to live in peace and raise my daughter. But I was forced to resort to this extreme measure.”

He concluded:

”By my action, I drew attention not only to my case, but also to the situation with political prisoners in our country. Now people are talking about us all loudly and are demanding the release of the innocent people who were arrested and convicted using all possible avenues. This means a lot. I hope that the topic of political prisoners will not disappear from the agenda with the end of my hunger strike. Thank you all again for your support and solidarity”.

Ihar Losik is still jailed because of his tireless efforts and hard work for a free and democratic Belarus. He has now been in jail as a political prisoner for 214 days. He was unable to celebrate his daughter’s 1st birthday in January. He hasn’t met his wife for months and according to his lawyer, has forgot the sound of his daughters voice.

Ihar Losik is not alone. Since the Presidential elections in August 2020, more than 32.000 Belarusians have been arrested, 900 political prisoners have been jailed and 8 Belarusian protesters been arbitrarily killed by Lukashenkas security forces. And yet still – the peaceful protests for a free and democratic Belarus. continue every day.