Belarus police block opposition leader wife from EU travel

Minsk/Kiev - Belarusian border police on Wednesday blocked travel to Europe by the wife of a senior member of the Belarusian opposition one day after she defied a KGB order to refrain from speaking out on his fate.

Security personnel in the central province Baranovich halted Milana Mikhalevich in the early morning hours as she was en route to Poland for a speaking engagement.

She is the wife of Ales Mikhalevich, an opposition politician and former presidential in jail on charges of inciting riot during a late December anti-government protest.

Police detined Milana Mikhalevich for at least two hours before handing her a court order banning her travel abroad pending the outcome of a trial of her husband, the Interfax news agency reported.

Belarusian opposition media on Wednesday reported allegations by Milana Mikhalevich that KGB interrogators had forced her husband to request she voluntarily refuse to speak publicly on his detention, and to remain inside the country.

She would not give in to the government pressure tactics, she said in comments reported by the Belapan news agency.

The Mikhaleviches are the latest targets of a wide-ranging crackdown against political opponents by President Aleksander Lukashenko, Belarus' authoritarian leader.

Detainees have included politicians, students, anti-government activists, and in some case persons not even publicly opposing Lukashenko, but simply related to some one who has.

Lukashenko's secret police are thought to be holding 29 senior members of the opposition, among them Ales Mikhalevich, pending court hearings on charges against them.

Most face potential prison terms of 15 years for their role in a massed protest against Lukashenko taking place on December 19, shortly after polls closed in a national election.

Belarusian officials declared the incumbent Lukashenko the victor in the vote with 79 per cent popular support, a result allowing him to continue in office for a fourth term.

International observers have condemned the election as almost certainly fraudulent.


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