Jailed Belarusian opposition leader asks wife to remain silent

Minsk/Kiev - A senior member of the Belarusian opposition, apparently under pressure from authorities, has asked his wife not to visit the European Union and to refrain from speaking out about his fate, the Belapan news agency reported Wednesday.

Aleksei Mikhalevich used a KGB land line to ask his wife Milana to cancel a planned speaking trip to Warsaw and Brussels, she said.

'It was his voice, but absolutely not his manner of speaking,' Milana Mikhalevich said. 'I think that they forced him to call and told him what to say.'

KGB agents offered further telephone communications with her husband once a week, in exchange for her silence, she said.

'I told them I was not going to keep quiet,' she said.

Milena Mikhailovich's statement came only hours before the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee was scheduled to discuss the human rights situation in Belarus and to hear a speech delivered by opposition leader Aleksandr Milinkevich.

President Aleskander Lukashenko won a fourth term in office on December 19, receiving 79 per cent of the vote. Opposition leaders and international observers widely cricitized the result as fraudulent.

More than 20,000 Lukashenko opponents demonstrated against the authoritarian leader's re-election shortly after polls closed. Police broke up the unsanctioned protest, arresting more than 600 participants.

A crackdown against opposition leaders, activists and independent journalists has been in progress since then.

A total of 29 alleged organizers of the December protests, including Milkhailovich, face jail terms of up to 15 years.


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