Ex-presidential candidate flees Belarus

MINSK: Former Belarussian presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich said on Monday he had managed to flee the country despite having no passport and facing trial over post-election protests.

Mikhalevich, who was released from pre-trial detention earlier this year after almost three months in prison, said he had left Belarus to avoid returning to jail after accusing the Belarus KGB of torturing prisoners. Mikhalevich wrote on his blog that he is now “beyond reach of the Belarussian KGB”, the security service which is holding dozens of high-profile opposition figures in jail.

It was not clear how he had managed to slip out of the tightly controlled country given the authorities were still holding his passport and he was barred even from leaving Minsk, let alone the country. Russian online newspaper Gazeta.Ru quoted a source from Mikhalevich’s circle as saying that the former candidate crossed the border into Poland in a diplomatic vehicle. The report could not be immediately confirmed.

Mikhalevich said late last month that the KGB jail tortured political prisoners in order for them to sign a statement of cooperation. He was released after almost three months in detention only after signing such a statement. “I am being called in by the investigation to the KGB. I have reason to believe that I will not then come out of the KGB building. So I will not be at the KGB,” Mikhalevich wrote. “I know that he is not in the country,” his wife Milena told AFP. “He didn’t even take his toothbrush.”

Forty-two people have been charged with mass rioting after the protests in Minsk on December 19, including five former candidates. Seven have already been convicted and sentenced to up to four years in prison. The European Union, led by Poland and Germany, have condemned the crackdown on the opposition by President Alexander Lukashenko, who was once condemned by Washington as Europe’s last dictator. afp


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