Belarus presidential candidate applies for Czech asylum

Mikhalevich said he was tortued by the KGB and released from prison only after agreeing to act as an informant. His wife and two young daughters remain in Minsk.

Ales Mikhalevich, an opposition candidate in last December’s presidential elections in Belarus, is in the Czech Republic where he has applied for political asylum, Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar confirmed to the Belarus news agency Belapan on Friday.

“The process for receiving political asylum has begun. Mr. Mikhalevich is well and is in a center for refugees near Brno,” Kolar said.

In an interview with the daily Pravo on Thursday, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) said the Czech Republic should grant Mikhalevich political asylum. “I know Mr. Mikhalevich personally, and I’m convinced that the Czech Republic should grant him asylum because it is in line with our traditions. Mr. Mikhalevich adheres to the same values as us and I admire his courage,” Schwarzenberg said.

Mikhalevich was arrested on December 20, 2010, and charged with causing mass unrest in connection with the large ‘For me, there’s a single reason that justifies the steps I’ve taken: a real physical threat’demonstration in Minsk on Dec. 19, following the close of polling stations. He was released from prison on bail on Feb. 19, and his passport confiscated by the Belarus secret police, the KGB.

On the night of March 14, Mikhalevich wrote in his blog that he is “out of the zone of the reach of the Belarus KGB” without specifying his location.

The Belarusian opposition movement Za Svobodu (For Freedom) reported that Mikhalevich had managed to leave the country by night and that his journey to a “safe place” took 24 hours. His wife and two young daughters remain in Minsk.

“For me, there’s a single reason that justifies the steps I’ve taken: a real physical threat. Everyone can see that those people [the Belarus authorities] are prepared to do anything and that there is no transparency or legality in their actions,” Mikhalevich said, as cited by Belapan.

At a press conference in Minsk on Feb. 28, Mikhalevich said that he had been released from prison after agreeing to act as a KGB informant. He said that he was pressured into this “by the dreadful conditions of imprisonment in KGB detention, which can be classified as torture.”

That same day, Schwarezenberg spoke with Mikhalevich by phone to express his support and asked him how the EU could help the political prisoners in Belarus. In response, Mikhalevich suggested that the UN human rights envoy raise the issue of torture in Belarus and that international organizations apply pressure to gain access to political prisoners.

Applications for political asylum in the Czech Republic are processed within 90 days.


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