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Detained Belarusian Activist Starts Hunger Strike


Syarhey Kavalenka

Syarhey Kavalenka

VITSEBSK, Belarus -- Detained Belarusian activist Syarhey Kavalenka has started a protest hunger strike in the eastern city of Vitsebsk, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Kavalenka, 36, is a member of the Belarusian Conservative Christian Party-Belarusian Popular Front. In January 2010, he was sentenced to three years' "limited freedom" for "illegally displaying the banned Belarusian national flag" in a public place.

In line with that verdict, Kavalenka must report to local parole officers every Thursday and stay home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Police detained Kavalenka on December 19. His wife, Alena Kavalenka, told RFE/RL that he spent the night in the detention center and was taken the next day to the Pershamay district police department, where he was told that he was charged with violating his parole conditions.

"If found guilty, he could be sent to jail for three years," Alena Kavalenka said. She said she did not know what kind of parole violation her husband was charged with, but it may be connected with his recent refusal to sign a paper detailing changes in his parole conditions.

On November 24, parole officers visited the Kavalenkas' home when Syarhey Kavalenka was absent and told his wife that "from now on [your husband] has to stay home after 7:30 p.m." Kavalenka subsequently refused to sign a document confirming that he was informed about and accepted the changes.

Alena Kavalenka also said that she was not allowed to meet with her husband on December 20, but "Syarhey managed to say a couple of words when he passed me in the courthouse corridor. He asked how our son is doing, and said that he has started a hunger strike."

Alena Kavalenka added that she was told that according to the warrant to arrest her husband, he may be held in custody for up to three days. His trial must take place during that period.

Read more in Belarusian here
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