Jailed Belarusian opposition leader declares hunger strike

Deutsche Presse Agentur

Minsk- A Belarusian opposition leader on Thursday declared a hunger strike as he began a jail sentence in a prison near the Russian border. Aleksander Kozulin faces a term of five and a half years' incarceration in a Vitebsk penitentiary for his part in anti- government demonstrations in March.

A former university dean, Kozulin is the number two man in Belarus' heavily-repressed anti-Lukashenko movement.

Aleksander Milinkevich, the opposition leader, was held in a Minsk jail for two weeks, as a result of the March disturbances.

Kozulin was at the forefront of steet demonstrations against authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashenko, whose police used force to break up the marches. Kozulin was charged with violating public order law, and inciting riot.

The hunger strike was "a mark of protest against the violation of the law by the Lukashenko regime," according to a statement from Kozulin's staff.

A former university dean, Kozulin called for an international tribunal to review the vote result returning Lukashenko to technically unconstitutional third term of office.

Most international observers criticized the March elections as heavily stacked in Lukashenko's favour, and the judgement and sentencing against Kozulin as produced by a biased court.