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A Belarusian activist is in hospital after he tried to slit his own throat in court, telling his father he was being forced to confess.
The man’s suicide attempt on Tuesday horrified Belarus, a nation deeply traumatised by police violence and torture following Alexander Lukashenko’s win in a rigged vote last summer.
Stsiapan Latypau is one of over 400 Belarusians jailed since the election for their opposition views.
Mr Latypau, charged with resisting police and fraud, was brought into a Minsk court on Tuesday afternoon, displaying evident signs of beating. He had a black eye, a swollen face, and he was limping, according to local media.
The man said in the audio recording released by the human rights group Viasna that he was recently visited by the Belarusian organised crime unit in prison and told that unless he were to confess he would be sent to a torture chamber and his family and neighbours would face criminal charges.
“So you need to get ready,” Mr Latypau was heard telling his father in court before he grabbed a pen and slit his throat with it to the shrieks of the audience.
A video released by the Nasha Niva website showed the man lying in the defendants’ cage, apparently unconscious. Nasha Niva reported that the bailiffs fumbled to extract Mt Latypau from the cage as none of them had the right keys.
The man was taken into surgery and is now on a ventilator, the local hospital said. In another tragic incident, a 17-year-old Belarusian activist died by suicide last week, leaving a note, saying that he was “running out of strength” after constant pressure from law enforcement.
Mr Latypau’s suicide attempt marks a new low for the Lukashenko regime, which forced a Ryanair plane to land in Minsk last week, arresting a dissident journalist and his girlfriend who were on board. Last summer’s massive opposition rallies in Belarus nearly toppled President Alexander Lukashenko who clamped down on dissent with vengeance.
Mr Latypau was one of the residents of a Minsk neighbourhood known as Plaza of Change where anti-government activists staged protests in the safety of their own backyards all autumn.
That changed in November when a local activist was arrested at the playground and later died in custody.
Lena, an activist from Plaza of Change and a friend of Mr Latypau, told the Telegraph their community was “shaken to the core” by what happened in the courtroom on Tuesday.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition leader in exile who was meeting US senators in Lithuania on Tuesday, has blamed Mr Latypau’s suicide attempt on the Lukashenko regime.
“There hasn’t been a day for the past year when the regime would not shatter one innocent life,” she said, adding that Stepan’s life is now in danger.
“We don’t know either if other prisoners and hostages will make it out there alive. What we do know is if this has to stop immediately. Stop killing our children. Stop killing our families. Stop killing your own people.”