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Jailed Belarusian Activist On Hunger Strike Being 'Forcibly Fed'

Syarhey Kavalenka
VITSEBSK, Belarus -- Medical personnel have begun forcibly feeding a jailed political activist on hunger strike in eastern Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Syarhey Kavalenka, 37, is a member of the Belarusian Conservative Christian Party-Belarusian Popular Front in the city of Vitsebsk. Police detained Kavalenka on December 19 and charged him with violating his parole conditions.

Kavalenka has been on hunger strike for a month to protest his detention.

Kavalenka's wife, Alena, visited the detention center in Vitsebsk on January 18 to try to give some juice to her husband in case he decides to end his hunger strike. But an officer representing the detention center's medical department told her that he will not accept the juice for Kavalenka as "he is currently being forcibly fed."

When Alena asked the officer for details about the "forced feeding," the officer answered that Kavalenka is handcuffed to his bed and "a soup solution is being put into his body via a feeding pump."

Alena Kavakenka in Vitebsk on January 18
Alena Kavakenka in Vitebsk on January 18
Also today, investigator Syarhey Volkau rejected Alena's application to see her husband. That is the third such rejection she has received since Kavalenka's arrest on December 19.

Kavalenka was sentenced in January 2010 to three years of "limited freedom" for "illegally displaying the banned Belarusian national flag" in a public place.

The Belarusian opposition often uses the white-red-white banner of the short-lived 1918 Republic of Belarus, which also served as the first flag of post-Soviet Belarus until it was replaced and outlawed in 1995.

Kavalenka could be sentenced to three years in jail if found guilty of violating his parole.

Read more in Belarusian here