Jailed Belarusian opposition leader freed-daughter

FOCUS News Agency

Minsk. Jailed Belarusian opposition leader Alexander Kozulin, considered in the West to be the ex-Soviet state's most prominent political prisoner, was released on Saturday and is on his way home, his daughter said, Reuters reported.

Western countries have long made his release a condition for improving ties with Belarus and President Alexander Lukashenko, accused of crushing fundamental freedoms.

"This morning he phoned me from the prison and said he had been released," Olga Kozulina told Reuters by telephone.

Interfax West news agency quoted sources in Lukashenko's administration as saying that Kozulin had been pardoned. Officials made no comment.

Kozulin was one of two opposition candidates to run against Lukashenko in a 2006 election and was jailed for 5 1/2 years for helping stage mass protests against the official result declaring the president the winner by a landslide.

He was released as the ex-Soviet state gears up for a parliamentary election next month which the president has promised will be free and fair.

Kozulin was on his way to attend the funeral of his father-in-law and was unlikely to make any public statements before Monday, his daughter said.

A prominent opposition web site,, quoted U.S. charge d'affaires Jonathan Moore, the most senior American diplomat in Belarus, as saying the release was "a first, very important step by Belarusian authorities.



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