MINSK -- Freed after 18 months behind bars on what he contends were false charges, Belarusian civil society activist Dzmitry Paliyenka said he was under constant pressure in prison and was denied adequate medical treatment.
Relatives, friends, and journalists met Paliyenka at the main railroad station in Minsk upon his arrival from the eastern city of Babruysk on October 24.
Paliyenka said he was treated poorly, was denied proper medical care when he needed it, and was allowed only one-hour meetings with relatives through a glass wall. By law, he was eligible to have three-day meetings with family members in guest rooms.
His fellow inmates "were punished for any contacts with me," Paliyenka said. "They were placed in solitary confinement or faced other restrictions [as punishment] for talking with me.”
Paliyenka was handed a two-year suspended sentence in October 2016 after he was arrested that April during a protest in Minsk and charged with threatening to attack a police officer and distribution of pornographic materials.
Paliyenka denied the charges, calling them trumped up and politically motivated.
In April 2017, a court in Minsk ruled that Paliyenka, who continued his civil rights activities, must serve the rest of his term in prison.
Amnesty International recognized Paliyenka as a prisoner of conscience in April 2017.
In April 2018, the European Parliament urged Minsk to release Paliyenka and other political prisoners.
Critics of authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus since 1994, say his government routinely uses the justice system to suppress dissent.