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Belarusian Opposition Activist Released

Syarhey Kavalenka said he was on a hunger strike for the last nine days of his jail term.
VITSEBSK, Belarus -- A leading member of the opposition Belarusian People's Front (BNF) has been released from jail, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Syarhey Kavalenka, who was sentenced to 10 days in jail on July 8 for violating court-ordered restrictions on his freedom, was released on July 18 in the northern city of Vitsebsk.

The court declared Kavalenka's hoisting of the opposition's version of the Belarusian flag in the center of Vitsebsk in December "public disorder," and sentenced him in January to three years of "restricted freedom."

That sentence requires Kavalenka to be home every day by 9 p.m.

On July 8, police were at his apartment block when he returned home and detained him on the basis that he arrived several minutes after his curfew.

Kavalenka told RFE/RL that the police usually arrest him on the eve of large protests or opposition events. His most recent arrest, he said, was prompted by the "Slavic Bazaar" music festival held in Vitsebsk last week.

The Belarusian government does not recognize the historic white-red-and-white national flag that opposition activists and nationalist groups display during their protests.

Kavalenka said the authorities do not want that flag to be visible in the city on public holidays. He said that is why he has been detained on the eve of such holidays as Victory Day, City Day, and Independence Day.

Kavalenka said he was on a hunger strike for the last nine days of his jail term. He added that he would go on a hunger strike if he was detained in the future.