Released Belarus opposition candidate denied media access

A former Belarus presidential candidate, who was imprisoned in a crackdown on opposition leaders after the controversial Dec. 19 election, was released Saturday but has not been allowed access to the Internet or the press, according to reports.

Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu was unexpectedly released along with six other detained opposition members from the Belarus intelligence services' detention center and placed under house arrest, online Belarusian news outlet BelaPAN has reported.

"The release order reads that my husband is not allowed to leave our home or use the Internet or send emails or talk to anyone other than me and his defense lawyer," Nyaklyaeu's wife, Volha, told reporters and sympathizers who gathered in front of the house where the couple live on Sunday morning. "He was warned that he would be put back in the detention center if he breaches even one condition of his release," she said.

After the results of the Dec. 19 elections were announced, thousands protested what they saw as a rigged voting process that elected Alexander Lukashenko to a fourth term as president. Several protesters were imprisoned and many opposition candidates remain in the custody of the Belarusian intelligence services, commonly known as the Belarus KGB.

Volha Nyaklyaeu said her husband has not been allowed to approach the windows of his house to wave to the people outside. The KGB officers posted at the couple's apartment to watch over the opposition leader told him that the gesture would be interpreted as communication with the media.

Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu was brought home by KGB officers at around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, more than two hours after the government's news agency BelTA reported that he had been released, along with prominent journalist Iryna Khalip, the wife of another ex-candidate, Andrey Sannikaw, and three other opposition figures.

Volha Nyaklyaeu suggested that the KGB apparently waited for reporters and sympathizers, who rushed to the house after learning the news, to disperse. "Journalists were late to meet Khalip, but quite an impressive amount of reporters gathered here," she told BelaPAN.

As for Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu's health condition, the wife said he felt normal but had health problems while in custody and had noticeably lost weight.

The KGB officers who brought him home on Saturday spent the night at the small two-room apartment. In the morning, other agents came to replace them.

Volha Nyaklyaeu said she was grateful to supporters for their solidarity. "He is at home only thanks to the solidarity," she said. "We also stay united with those who are still held in the KGB detention center and hope they will also be released at least on the same conditions."

On Saturday evening, the authorities also unexpectedly freed Aleh Korban and Anatol Pawlaw, allies of former candidate Yaraslaw Ramanchuk, and Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu's aide Syarhey Vaznyak.

Vaznyak, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Tovarishch, a publication of the opposition "Spravedlivy Mir" (Just World), a Belarusian leftist party, was released on his own recognizance. He was not available on his phone following his release. The newspaper's deputy editor, Dzmitry Yanenka, told BelaPAN that Vaznyak had been freed on the condition that he would not talk to the media.

On Friday evening, the authorities unexpectedly released Natallya Radzina, editor of the opposition news website Two days earlier, Uladzimir Kobets, campaign chief for ex-candidate Sannikaw, was freed.

They are among nearly 40 people who have been charged with organizing mass riots in connection with the protest that was brutally dispersed by riot police. They may face a prison term of up to 15 years.

The releases came ahead of a meeting to be held by the foreign ministers of European Union member countries on Monday to approve sanctions against the Belarusian government for its post-election crackdown on opponents.

Three former presidential candidates, Sannikaw, Alyaksey Mikhalevich and Mikalay Statkevich, remain in KGB detention centers along with their allies and aides of other ex-candidates.


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