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Jailed Belarusian Opposition Activists Placed In Stricter Conditions

Maryna Adamovich, the wife of Mikola Statkevich, says she was told that her husband has been put in solitary confinement.
MAHILEU/IVATSEVICHY, Belarus -- A jailed former Belarusian presidential candidate has been placed in solitary confinement and an opposition activist transfered to a "closed regime" prison for violating rules, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Maryna Adamovich, wife of former presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich, told RFE/RL today that she and her husband's lawyer arrived at the "closed-regime type jail No. 4" outside of the eastern city of Mahileu -- where Statkevich was transferred on January 14 -- to check on him but were told he was put in solitary confinement for 10 days for violating "internal regulations." They did not say which regulations he violated.

Mikalay Statkevich in court in Minsk in May 2011
Mikalay Statkevich in court in Minsk in May 2011
Adamovich told RFE/RL that her husband's lawyer is still trying to get details about Statkevich's situation from jail officials.

Meanwhile, jailed opposition activist Mikalay Autukhovich was sentenced today to two years and two months in a "closed regime" prison.

Paval Sapelka, Autukhovich's former lawyer, told RFE/RL that a mobile court held hearings in a labor camp in the southwestern town of Ivatsevichy -- where Autukhovich is serving his prison term -- and ruled that he must be sent to a "closed regime" penitentiary till the end of his term because of the "permanent violation of the labor camp's internal order and regulations."

Autukhovich and his three co-defendants were convicted in May 2010 on charges of illegal possession of weapons and ammunition. Autukhovich was sentenced to five years and two months in jail.

The four were originally charged with preparing terrorist acts against officials in their hometowns of Vaukavysk, Hrodna, and Minsk. Those charges were later dropped.

Autukhovich and his colleagues say the cases against them are politically motivated.

Mikalay Autukhovich (file photo)
Mikalay Autukhovich (file photo)
Autukhovich has been repeatedly placed in solitary confinement while serving his prison term for his hunger strikes and other forms of protests challenging his sentence. The penitentiary officials classified his behavior as a "violation of the labor camp's internal order."

Last month Autukhovich attempted to commit suicide by slashing his wrists. He was then placed in a so-called "closed regime premises" (PKT) in the labor camp for one month as punishment for his suicide attempt.

Being under a PKT means being in a much stricter part of the penitentiary where prisoners are kept in their cells most of the time, whereas in a labor camp inmates are able to walk throughout the camp.

There are also increased restrictions on exercise, visits, mail, and other privileges.

At his new penitentiary, Statkevich will only be allowed one visit by his relatives per year and can receive two packages from relatives per year.

Statkevich, 55, was jailed for six years in May for "organizing mass disturbances" on December 19, 2010, when some 15,000 people took to the streets of Minsk to protest alleged vote fraud in the presidential election that gave another term to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Statkevich and several other presidential candidates were arrested on that day or shortly thereafter along with many other opposition leaders and activists.

On January 12, a mobile court held a session at Statkevich's labor camp No. 17 in the eastern town of Shklou. It ruled that Statkevich would be transferred to a "closed regime" prison due to his "constant violation of the labor camp's internal regulations."

Statkevich had previously been sentenced to three years in a labor camp in 2005 for organizing protests against a referendum that lifted the constitutional limit on presidential terms, allowing Lukashenka to run again. He was released in an amnesty two years later.

Read more in Belarusian here