A Belarusian artist who once threw dung outside President Alexander Lukashenko’s office died in prison where he was serving a five-year sentence for his political activities, human rights activists and his wife said.
Alice Pushkin, 57, died in a prison in Grodno, western Belarus, of unknown causes on Tuesday, although he was not known to have an illness, according to the Viasna Center for Human Rights.
Pushkin’s wife, Janina Demush, told the Associated Press that the artist “died in the prison’s intensive care unit under mysterious circumstances.”
The Belarusian authorities have not commented.
Artist and political prisoner Alice Pushkin died in intensive care under mysterious circumstances. His wife talked about it on Facebook.
For many years he was friends with the head of Viasna, Ales Bialyatski. pic.twitter.com/jziNJcHGBh
– #FreeViasna (@FreeViasna) July 11, 2023
Pushkin was a political artist and cartoonist, whose subject was often Lukashenko, the country’s authoritarian ruler. The artist depicts Lukashenko in hell, surrounded by riot police, on a mural in one of the churches in the Belarusian town of Pop.
In 1999, Pushkin was sentenced to two years in prison for “the president’s dung”, overturning a manure cart at the entrance to the presidential office in the capital, Minsk.
Pushkin actively participated in demonstrations of political opposition.
In March 2021, he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for incitement to hatred and “desecration of state symbols”. Apparently, in one of his exhibitions, Pushkin depicted a Belarusian national figure—a member of the postwar anti-Soviet resistance—who had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.
During his sentencing hearing, Pushkin stripped naked in protest of being placed in solitary confinement for 13 days.
Belarus witnessed mass protests when Lukashenko won re-election in August 2020 in a ballot that the opposition and the West denounced as fraudulent.
The authorities responded with a brutal crackdown, resulting in the arrests of more than 35,000 people, beatings of the police, and the closure of many NGOs and independent media.
According to Viasna, Belarus has imprisoned nearly 1,500 political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Alice Bialiatsky.
Belarusian opposition leader-in-exile Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said that Belarus had lost one of its “talented” and “brave” sons with the death of Pushkin, who “died as a political prisoner of the regime,” and for which Lukashenko and his “comrades” bear responsibility. .
“Alice used her art to fight for freedom and build a new Belarus without tyranny. He dreamed of a free and democratic Belarus. Now we have to continue his work and make his dream come true,” Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter.
She said, “Tyrants fear artists.”
Belarus has lost one of its talented and brave sons. Alice Pushkin was the embodiment of the indomitable spirit of the Belarusian people. He died as a political prisoner of the regime and the responsibility rests with the jailer Lukashenko and his comrades.
Alice used her art to… pic.twitter.com/lIRaQ0taI4
– Sviatlana Tsihanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) July 11, 2023
“They have a mirror on the world, a mirror that tyrants are afraid to look into. I hope this tragedy will be a wake-up call for the world. How many people must die behind bars?”, she added.
I call for a strong international response to this death and for the continuation of the inhumane treatment of political prisoners. »
The Lukashenko regime, isolated for years, has become even more isolated after its brutal suppression of protests and allowed Russia to use Belarusian soil to launch its attack on Ukraine.