Any day now, it’s possible that two brothers will be executed in the only European country where the death penalty still exists – but their family will never find out when they were shot, or where they were buried.
Hanna Kostseva: “My brothers on Europe’s last death row“
Five months ago, Hanna Kostseva was in court when her two brothers, Stanislaw and Ilya, aged 19 and 21, were sentenced to death for murder.
“When the judge read out the verdict to ‘apply an exceptional measure of punishment in the form of execution’, people in the courtroom began to clap,” she says.
“Initially, just one started, then another followed, then a third, and in the whole hall only applause was heard. For me, at that moment, it was like my own life was cut short.”
Hanna says she then approached the cage in which her brothers had pleaded guilty to the murder of one of her neighbours. She managed to squeeze close to them and hug them through the bars, and promised she would do everything possible to save their lives.
In reality their fate was already sealed.
A month earlier, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, had told a Russian radio station the case was under his personal control.
“They’re scum, there’s no other word for them. They have been in trouble before and have been punished. They killed a teacher – only because she wanted to save two of their sister’s children. Their sister is a nothing – an asocial element. The teacher only tried to protect the kids and take them out of the family. These two were knifing her all night.”
The brothers’ appeal against their sentence was dismissed on 22 May. After that, the only option remaining was to ask the president for clemency.
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