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Trade union activist goes on hunger strike for 48 days — he was placed in a punishment cell

The former Naftan lawyer Aliaksandr Kapshul used to help the enterprise win disputes with other companies, but now he is accused of treason against the state for helping the plant workers. He went on hunger-strike in the detention center for a month and a half. Since 10 February, Alexander has been kept in a punishment cell in pre-trial prison №3. Nasha Niva told the story of an activist who was "returned" by the KGB after his escape.

Trade union activist goes on hunger strike for 48 days — he was placed in a punishment cell
Aliaksandr Kapshul in Gomel Regional Court. Photo: «Гомельская правда»

Smuggled out of Russia to Minsk

Aliaksandr Kapshul, 44 y.o., went on hunger strike on 31 December. He demanded that the prison administration observe all the rules and regulations of detention of prisoners.

"The hunger-strike is being held under the supervision of doctors," says Pavel, an associate of the activist. - To keep his body alive, Aliaksandr takes glucose and condensed milk. He refuses other foods. He says he will get his own way.

Aliaksandr Kapshul was imprisoned for participation in protests and trade union activity. He and nine other activists are accused of "treason against the state," "establishment and participation in an extremist formation," and a number of other "crimes. They face up to 15 years in prison. All the defendants are recognized by the human rights community as political prisoners.

Gomel regional court considers the criminal case of November 9, 2022 in a closed trial.

Aliaksandr Kapshul was detained on September 25, 2021 at the Russian-Ukrainian border. Subsequently, he was handed over to the KGB of Belarus, which took him to Minsk.

From Russia, Aliaksandr Kapshul hoped to break through to Poland. He hoped that the Russian police and special services would not detain him.

"He presumptuously took a plane ticket to Warsaw and was going to fly to Poland from Moscow airport," says Pavel. - Passing by train in Russia, during a document check, he realized that he would be detained at the nearest station. He managed to open the door in the vestibule and jumped out of the train. He broke his leg and dislocated his arm, but kind people helped him and took him to the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Trial of the Rabochy Rukh case
Trial of the Rabochy Rukh case. Photo: «Гомельские ведомости»

Aliaksandr was detained at the border crossing while checking his documents.

"He didn't appear in any databases. We found out through our own channels, but they were waiting for him there," Pavel says. - It was unwise to cross the border officially, but there was no other way out, especially with a broken leg and an injured arm. He was kept at the border until the KGB officers arrived. There was no court order for extradition. They just took him illegally from Russia to Belarus.

According to Pavel, the detention of Aliaksandr became known from sources who kept in touch with him during his stay in Russia.

Three days before his arrest, KGB officers found old cartridges in Kapshul’s cottage. According to the "Rabochy Rukh" telegram channel, they were planted by the special services. Among the articles of charges against Kapshul is "illegal actions with firearms, ammunition and explosives.

20 Years of Work at Navapolatsk Naftan

Aliaksandr Kapshul worked at "Naftan" for 20 years. In February 2021 he was formally dismissed for truancy.

He graduated from the faculty of international relations of Belarusian State University. He studied at the university under the target referral of the plant "Polimir", a structural unit of "Naftan".

Naftan workers at a rally on 17 August 2020. Photo: «Вестник Нафтана»

Kapshul’s father worked at Polymir for many years, first as an economist and then as head of security. Aliaksandr met his wife at the company as well.

They have two teenage sons. Pavel characterizes his friend as a serious, goal-oriented, but with a great sense of humor man.

"He's a great conversationalist. Knows how to relax. I know he used to spend time visiting the bathhouse. Rode bicycles with the kids. Said he was doing everything for his children's future. So that they could live in a normal country, when they go out on the street, so they would not be arrested, not beaten up, not imprisoned," stresses Pavel.

Aliaksandr himself said that when he had free time, he preferred to spend it with his family. Every evening they watched a new film together.

Aliaksandr put a lot of effort into building a coottage, where on weekends he relaxed with his family. He liked to smoke fish and meat. He went with children to the lake, to the swimming pool. He was fiddling with machinery: a car and a computer.

Defended the interests of state business in disputes with the workers

Before the events of 2020, Aliaksandr Kapshul defended the interests of the company in court cases with laid-off workers.

"Mostly lawsuits are filed by people who were fired "under the article." But the company did not lose a single such case," he said.

Aliaksandr Kapshul. Photo:

Aliaksandr Kapshul defended the interests of Naftan in disputes with other enterprises.

"Once we were in a dispute with a construction company for almost eight months. After signing the acceptance certificate for the work performed, we found, one might say, hidden defects," he said in 2017. - In the end, we won, gaining the right not to pay for this work. That was ten years ago, the amount of the deal was about 75 million rubles.

Aliaksandr’s human rights colleague Svetlana notes that "after 2020, he rearranged himself and started defending workers' rights."

"Aliaksandr could not accept the violations of workers' rights that were allowed by the state and state-owned enterprises," she says. - He defended workers, as a lawyer, within the legal framework - national and international. These legal actions, among other things, were the basis for his prosecution by the state. Aliaksandr did not change in prison, he was not broken, and he continues to fight for his rights, filing complaints."

Called the events of 2020 a "Lawlessness"

Before the 2020 protests, Pavel and Aliaksandr did not know each other, although they worked at Naftan. Aliaksandr had an office in the plant management building, while Pavel was busy at the plant itself.

Both spoke at rallies. Afterwards the participants would gather to discuss the further course of the protest movement, and at such gatherings the men became friends.

"There was violence in the country, people were being beaten, and the workers came out against the injustice. Aliaksandr was outraged by what was happening. He voiced his position to the management of the enterprise, argued with members of the election commissions, whom he knew from his work," Pavel says.

Aliaksandr Kapshul. Photo: instagram «Страна для жизни»

In 2020 Aliaksandr became a member of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union. There he defended workers against pressure from the employer and the state trade union, which claimed to be out of politics, but promoted the firing of workers.

"He is a professional, experienced lawyer, though his specificity is not labor law, but international relations. He proved his position in courts with arguments, with facts of violation of legislation. The opposite side, the position of the company's representatives and prosecutors, who were sometimes present at the trials, was blown apart," says Pavel.

Aliaksandr Kapshul's statement to the Naftan administration on joining the strike. Photo: instagram «Страна для жизни»

Aliaksandr Kapshul joined the national strike in early December 2020. Two and a half months later, in February 2021, he was fired.

"He, like the other workers at the company, wrote a statement and did not go to work," says Peter. - Like all the strikers, he was formally fired for absenteeism."

Aliaksandr Kapshul called the events of 2020 a "legal outrage."

He stated that the laws were changed not to protect the rights of the people as the only source of power, but to suppress it. He proved that the management of "Naftan" pressurized the workers for their civil position and trade-union affiliation.

What is the case of "Rabochy Rukh"?

The "Rabochy Rukh" case emerged after the detention in 2021 of two dozen factory workers across the country. Some were later released. The KGB investigated the case and collected 38 volumes of materials.

The defendants in the Rabochag Rukhu case: Hanna Ablab, Siarhei Dziuba, Aliaksandr Hashnikau, Ihar Mints, Andrei Paheryla, Siarhei Shelest, Valiantsin Tseranevich and Uladzimir Zhurauka. Photo:



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