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‘I won’t last much longer’: Lawyer begs for gov’t help after 1 month in Belarus jail

Maya Rayten-Stol, who was caught with 2.5 grams of medical marijuana at Minsk airport, says she’s in excruciating pain and facing tough conditions at Pishchalauski Castle prison

Israeli lawyer Maya Reiten. (Facebook)
Israeli lawyer Maya Reiten. (Facebook)

An Israeli woman imprisoned for over a month in Belarus on suspicion of having tried to smuggle a small amount of medical marijuana into the country has implored Israeli officials to intervene on her behalf, saying that she may not survive behind bars much longer.

“My health is waning. I can no longer stay here, and I will not last much longer,” said Maya Rayten-Stol, a lawyer who was detained at the Minsk airport on November 4 with some 2.5 grams (under a tenth of an ounce) of medical cannabis.

Upon her arrest, she reportedly stressed to Belarussian authorities that the marijuana in her possession was licensed by the Health Ministry and tried to show documents to prove her assertion, but was ignored. She suffers from several unspecified conditions, according to a letter from fellow lawyers sent to Israeli officials on her behalf.

Under Belarussian law, she could face three to five years in prison.

Held in the notorious Pishchalauski Castle prison, known as the country’s main re-trial detention center, where arrested political activists are detained, Rayten-Stol wrote in her letter that her cell is just 12 square meters (129 square feet) in size and she shares it with three other women who only speak Russian. She is not allowed out of her cell, except for one and a half hours in the cold outside.

“Every day here feels like a whole year that passes by,” she wrote. “The food here is not kosher and I do not touch it.”

Rayten-Stol wrote that she is given daily shots for pains in her leg but that it is not sufficient without the additional drugs she is prescribed in Israel, along with the medical marijuana.

“I am suffering here, experiencing excruciating agony and am mad with worries for my children, for my beloved elderly parents… and for my office, due to my responsibility to my clients,” she wrote.

Rayten-Stol said she had visited Minsk several times in recent months without incident before her arrest.

“I miss my beloved children Ido and Lia immensely and I hear they have been showing strength and extraordinary maturity given the circumstances,” she added. “They give me the strength to keep going here, but my resilience also has limits and those limits are approaching.”

“I plead to you a painful cry for the officials in the government to act with full vigor to end the hell I am going through here,” Rayten-Stol wrote.

Late last month, the Foreign Ministry said it had been in direct contact with the detainee’s family and that Israel’s ambassador to Belarus, Alon Shoham, had visited Rayten-Stol in jail.

In January 2020, Russian authorities agreed to release an Israeli traveler who had been caught with nine grams of marijuana in her luggage as she waited for a connecting flight, following an intense diplomatic and media campaign.

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