London: Natalia Koliada, the artistic director of the Belarus Free Theatre Company, has revealed how she was threatened with being beaten and raped after her arrest during protests over disputed election.
The 37-year-old joined a star-studded gathering at London`s Old Vic to raise awareness of the Belarus Free Theatre, the independent performing arts group that she co-founded five years ago.
Koliada revealed she was arrested, threatened with rape and tried without access to her lawyer after riot police broke up a 10,000-strong demonstration protesting at apparently rigged elections.
President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with a rod of iron for 16 years, was reported to have won with 80 percent of the vote, while according to official figures his nearest rival received just 2.4 percent.
Thousands of demonstrators were beaten by riot police and hundreds were arrested after a protest which left the central square in Minsk, the capital of the former Soviet republic, spattered with blood.
Koliada said how she was singled out by police and directed to a prison van - "a kind of mobile jail" - where she was made to lie, face down, and was threatened with murder and rape if she moved or spoke.
"It was dark inside, and I couldn’t see a thing. The guard said `My only dream is to kill you; if you so much as move you’ll feel my baton all over your body, you animal`,” the Telegraph quoted her as saying.
"Then he threatened to rape me," she said.
As the truck filled up it the guards ordered the prisoners to stand until, with 70 on board, it was driven to a prison where they were made to wait for two and a half hours in a yard surrounded by barbed wire.
They were eventually escorted into a five-storey concrete building, she said. "On every corridor on every floor there were rows of men standing facing the walls with their hands behind their backs. It was like a scene out of films about Fascism."
The women were separated and moved to another floor, where they were forced to spend the night standing, faces to the wall, hands splayed open behind them.
"The prison guards would let us move a bit when the riot officers weren’t there. But once they came back, we had to stay silent and absolutely still," she said.
Koliada told her story after being released by a judge with just a fine because a paperwork mix-up meant she was accused in court under someone else’s name.