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Belarusian Activist Released After Hunger Strike

Belarusian activist Syarhey Kavalenka has been unexpectedly released.
Belarusian activist Syarhey Kavalenka has been unexpectedly released.
VITSEBSK, Belarus -- Jailed Belarusian activist Syarhey Kavalenka was unexpectedly released today, 12 days before the end of his sentence, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Kavalenka was discharged today from a hospital in his hometown of Vitsebsk, where he was being treated for low blood pressure after going on hunger strike, and immediately taken by police to the detention center where he was serving a 15-day jail term.

Kavalenka, 36, told RFE/RL that at the detention center a policeman escorting him received a call on his mobile phone. He then informed Kavalenka that he was free to leave.

The policeman also told him that he can remain free while his appeal to the city prosecutor's office is being considered.

"It looks as though my hunger strike and persistence worked," Kavalenka told RFE/RL. He added that he will now end his hunger strike but is ready to resume it if the prosecutor's office rules he must serve the remaining 12 days of his jail term.

Kavalenka, a member of the Belarusian Conservative Christian Party-Belarusian Popular Front, had to suspend his hunger strike on April 5 after being hospitalized for low blood pressure the previous day. He had served only three days of his sentence.

He originally went on hunger strike to protest his arrests on March 25 and again on April 1.

Kavalenka was arrested the first time in Vitsebsk while holding the banned opposition national white-red-white flag to mark the 93rd anniversary of the country's independence from Russia. He was sentenced to seven days in jail for "verbally insulting the police."

When Kavalenka was released on April 1, he was rearrested immediately after leaving the jail and sentenced to 15 days in prison for violating the three-year "limited freedom" sentence given to him in January 2010 for "the illegal display of the banned Belarusian national flag" in a public place.

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