MINSK -- The United States has welcomed the decision by Belarus authorities to release prominent opposition leader Alyaksandr Kazulin from prison.
His daughter, Volha Kazulina, told RFE/RL on August 16 that Kazulin was granted compassionate leave to attend the funeral of his father-in-law.
Kazulina told Reuters the same day that she believes her father had been freed for good, although she added that her father would make no statements before August 18, after the funeral is over.
Kazulin is serving a 5 1/2-year prison sentence for hooliganism and incitement to mass disorder for his role in protesting the results of the country's March 2006 presidential election, in which he ran unsuccessfully against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Belarusian law permits prisoners to be temporarily released for funerals of family members. In 2007, Kazulin was given compassionate leave to attend his wife's funeral after he staged his second hunger strike in prison. His first hunger strike, held shortly after his detention to protest Lukashenka's authoritarian rule, lasted 53 days.
Brussels and Washington have consistently urged Belarus, described by many as "Europe's last dictatorship," to free its political prisoners and put an end to the repression of dissidents. Persistent human rights violations have led Western countries to slap sanctions on Belarusian officials and enterprises.
President Lukashenka in 2007 offered to let Kazulin go free on condition he leave Belarus, but the opposition leader refused.