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Belarusian Activist Ends Hunger Strike

Syarhey Malaletkin
Syarhey Malaletkin
VORSHA, Belarus -- A Belarusian opposition activist in the eastern town of Vorsha has ended his two-week hunger strike, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Syarhey Malaletkin began the hunger strike on April 1.

Malaletkin, 49, told RFE/RL on April 15 that he was ending his protest because 15 days is the maximum term, he believes, that those who took part in the unsanctioned antigovernment protest on December 19 in Minsk should have been given.

On that day, dozens of demonstrators -- including some opposition presidential candidates -- were arrested and charged with organizing and/or participating in "mass unrest."

An estimated 15,000 people had gathered in central Minsk to protest the official announcement of incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's reelection.

Many of the jailed activists were later sentenced to multiyear jail terms.

Malaletkin told RFE/RL that although it was difficult for him to endure the hunger strike, he now feels better as he can say that he was not idle when important political events were taking place in his country.

Belarus's KGB has released several opposition politicians and activists over the past two months, asking them not to leave their hometowns while investigations on their cases continue.

They include former presidential candidates Vital Rymasheuski and Ales Mikhalevich; the leader of the opposition United Civic Party, Anatol Lyabedzka; online chief editor Natalya Radzina; Andrey Dzmitryeu, the campaign manager for opposition presidential candidate Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu; and "Tell The Truth!" campaign activist Syarhey Vaznyak.

Mikhalevich and Radzina fled the country to avoid trial.

Nyaklyaeu was released earlier this year and put under house arrest, as was journalist Iryna Khalip, the wife of opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau.

Sannikau and another opposition candidate, Mikalay Statkevich, remain in jail.

Read more in Belarusian here