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Svaboda Reaches Behind Bars in Belarus

Though still imprisoned, Radio Svaboda helped Eduard Lobau feel less isolated despite prison authorities' restrictions.
Having failed repeatedly to arrange for a telephone conversation with her imprisoned son, Marina Lobova told RFE/RL that an online report by RFE/RL's Belarus Service compelled prison authorities to allow the two to speak.

“Because of Radio Svaboda, I have finally heard the voice of my son,” Lobova said.

On September 15, Lobova told Radio Svaboda that prison authorities at Ivatsevichy penal colony, where her son Eduard Lobau is serving a four year sentence for hooliganism, were restricting access to her son and that she had not been able to contact him for nearly one month, despite numerous attempts. Lobova warned that she would involve her son's attorney if she was not permitted to speak to her son within a week’s time.

The day after Radio Svaboda’s report appeared online, Lobova received a phone call from her son. She credits Radio Svaboda with exposing the prison authorities’ mistreatment of her son and with facilitating the long-awaited telephone reunion.

Lobova also said she believes that prison authorities were fully aware of her comments to Radio Svaboda. “They all know that they were written about,” she said. “They read. They’re up to date. And they took offense when I condemned them.”

“The officials are obviously paying attention to what we are reporting and they are reacting to it,” Radio Svaboda’s Deputy Service Director Bohdan Andrusyshyn said.

He explained that prisoners in Belarus are an important Svaboda constituency. “We keep political prisoners in our focus constantly, and it’s important that we don’t forget about them. This is an ongoing plight and the violation of their rights continues beyond their sentences.”

This past summer Radio Svaboda produced a prison survival manual, written by esteemed Belarusian scientist, Radio Svaboda commentator, and former prisoner Yuri Bandazheuski. The guide provides coping mechanisms for political prisoners, such as physical and psychological techniques and advice, to ensure survival and well-being while incarcerated.

-- Rob Peace