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Jailed Belarusian Candidate Endures 'Tough Ordeal' Of Prison Transfer


Andrey Sannikau in a Minsk courtroom in May

Andrey Sannikau in a Minsk courtroom in May

MAHILEU, Belarus -- Jailed former Belarusian presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau has been moved for the third time in just over a week, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

On September 26, after more than a week of uncertainty over his whereabouts, Sannikau's lawyer, Andrey Varvashevich, was able to see him in transit detention center No. 4 in the eastern city of Mahileu.

A duty officer at that detention center told RFE/RL by phone today that Sannikau is no longer being held there.

The officer refused to give any information about Sannikau's current whereabouts. But on September 27, the Mahileu detention center warden, Alyaksandr Lamaza, told journalists that Sannikau would be sent to a labor camp in Babruysk by the end of this week, "according to the papers added to his case."

Officials at the camp in Babruysk were unavailable for comment.

Sannikau was found guilty of organizing mass disorders in Minsk on December 19, 2010, and sentenced in May to five years in jail.

He was originally sent to a maximum-security labor camp in the northern city of Navapolatsak. On September 21, Sannikau's wife, Iryna Khalip, was informed by Navapolatsak labor camp officials that he was in transit as of the previous day to a penitentiary in Babruysk and should arrive there by September 24.

When Khalip arrived on September 26 at the penitentiary in Babruysk to see her husband, officials told her that he was not there, but at the Mahileu detention center.

Khalip told RFE/RL on September 26 that, according to the information she received later from officials, her husband was kept for several days in a detention center in the eastern city of Vitsebsk before being taken to the detention center in Mahileu on September 25.

Khalip said the authorities are intentionally prolonging the process of moving Sannikau from one part of the country to another in order "to intimidate him."

Sannikau's lawyers and relatives say the authorities have never offered any explanation for his transfer to another labor camp situated hundreds of miles away.

Former jail inmates told RFE/RL that the transfer over a period of several days to another jail is a very "tough ordeal," as detainees and convicts are held in tiny temporary cells in "inhumane conditions."

A prisoner's life in transit is misery, much worse than in a labor camp, as there are no sanitary facilities, no newspapers, and no letters, and very often no opportunity to talk to anyone, former inmates told RFE/RL.

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