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Jailed Belarusian Opposition Leader Again In Transit

Andrey Sannikau in a Minsk court during his trial in April
Andrey Sannikau in a Minsk court during his trial in April
MINSK -- Jailed former Belarusian presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau has been transferred without warning from a labor camp in the eastern city of Babruysk, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Sannikau's lawyer, Andrey Varvashevich, arrived in Babruysk to meet with him, but penitentiary officials told him Sannikau had been moved to another labor camp.

They said his relatives would be informed when he reached his final destination, but gave no further details.

Sannikau's wife, journalist Iryna Khalip, described the situation as "further pressure exerted on my husband."

"We still remember what kind of move to another penitentiary Sannikau had to undergo recently," she told RFE/RL. "We had no idea where he was while he was being transferred for two weeks to different jails and labor camps in inhumane conditions. I will now start my efforts to find where my husband is."

In September, Sannikau's relatives were kept uninformed about his whereabouts for two weeks. His wife told RFE/RL then that the authorities were intentionally prolonging the process of moving Sannikau from one part of the country to another in order "to intimidate him."

Sannikau's lawyers and relatives say the authorities never offered any explanation for his transfer to another labor camp hundreds of kilometers away.

Sannikau was jailed for five years in May for his part in the street protests that broke out against the December 2010 presidential election that returned Alyaksandr Lukashenka to power.

He was originally sent to a maximum-security labor camp in the northern city of Navapolatsak. On September 21 Khalip was informed by Navapolatsak labor camp officials that he was in transit as of the previous day to a penitentiary in Babruysk, and should arrive there by September 24.

However, she was not able to find him at the labor camp in Babruysk on September 24. It took almost two weeks before Sannikau reached the penitentiary after many days spent in special trains for transportation of convicts and in detention centers in various locations.

Former jail inmates told RFE/RL in September that the transfer over a period of several days to another jail was a very "tough ordeal," as detainees and convicts were held in tiny temporary cells in "inhumane conditions."

They said a prisoner's life in transit was "misery," much worse than in a labor camp, as there were no sanitary facilities, no newspapers, and no letters, and very often no opportunity to talk to anyone for long periods of time.

Read more in Belarusian here