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Imprisoned Belarusian Rights Leader Increasingly Isolated, Wife Says

Belarusian activists (left to right) Tatsiana Reviaka, Zhanna Litvina, and Natalya Pinchuk at the Washington office of Freedom House.
WASHINGTON -- The wife of imprisoned Belarusian rights leader Ales Byalyatski says authorities are doing "everything possible" to keep him isolated at his penal colony in the eastern city of Babruisk.

Natalya Pinchuk told RFE/RL that prisoners released from the colony have told her that her husband is increasingly put into isolation and being threatened with a longer prison term. She said Byalyatski has not been able to receive food packages and that she continues to be denied visiting rights.

Byalyatski, who helped found the opposition Popular Front and heads the human rights group, Vyasna (Spring), was sentenced in November 2011 to 4 1/2 years on tax evasion charges that his supporters say were politically motivated. Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience and Western leaders have called for his unconditional release.

Pinchuk is currently in Washington along with Zhanna Litvina, the chair of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, and Tatsiana Reviaka, the president of Belarusian Human Rights House, on a trip organized by the rights watchdog group Freedom House. The women said their goal is to raise awareness of continuing repression in Belarus nearly two years after the government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka crushed protests following his disputed reelection on December 19, 2010.

They are scheduled to meet with Congressional staff, State Department officials, and an adviser on President Barack Obama's National Security Council.