Sun, 16 Jun 2019

HRABYANYOVA, Belarus -- Relatives of an elderly Romany woman who was buried in eastern Belarus on May 22 say her death was caused by 'wrongful raids' by special police forces six days before.

Dozens of people bid farewell to Lidzia Yurchanka in Hrabyanyova, a mainly Roma-populated village located near the city of Mahileu.

Relatives say the 67-year-old woman, who was a cancer patient, died on May 20 after she felt unwell following raids by armed special police in her home and the houses of other Romany residents in Hrabyanyova and the nearby village of Chapayeuka late on May 16.

Dozens of Romany men and women were detained in both villages and taken to police stations, where they say they were severely beaten and questioned regarding the death of a police officer.

The death certificate for Yurchanka says she died of venous thromboembolism, a condition in which a blood clot forms in deep veins, but her relatives claim that she passed away as a result of the stress caused by the police raids.

No autopsy was performed, at the family's request.

Dozens of Romany men and women were detained in both villages and taken to police stations, where they say they were severely beaten and questioned regarding the death of a police officer.

During the raid in Yurchanka's house, police were very rude and shouted at the children and grown-ups using vulgar words, according to relatives.

They said that when Yurchanka asked why the raid was being conducted, one of the police officers told her, 'Shut up, bitch, or I will tear you apart.'

The relatives said that Yurchanka was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, and doctors warned her that she needed to avoid any stress because her body was extremely weak.

'After the police raid, her blood pressure jumped up and she had to use pills to try to get it back to normal,' Yurchanka's granddaughter told RFE/RL.

Yauhen Patapovich, a 22-year-old traffic-police officer, was found dead with a gunshot wound in a park area in Mahileu's outskirts on May 16.

His colleagues started searching for possible suspects among the local Romany community because one of Patapovich's last messages on the Viber messaging app mentioned 'three Romany men in a car,' according to officials.

Interior Ministry and Investigative Committee officials later told journalists that Patapovich had committed suicide.

With reporting by Belapan

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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