Belarusian Activist Jailed For Two Years

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service
MINSK -- A court in the Belarusian city of Vitsebsk has found opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka guilty of violating his parole and sentenced him to 25 months in jail.

Kavalenka, 37, is a member of the Belarusian Conservative Christian Party-Belarusian Popular Front.

He was arrested in December for the alleged parole violations.

He had been sentenced in January 2010 to three years of "limited freedom" for "illegally displaying the banned Belarusian national flag."

The latest trial, which started on February 21, had been suspended several times due to health problems apparently caused by Kavalenka's ongoing hunger strike.

Relatives and supporters expressed shock at his gaunt appearance when he appeared for the latest court process.

Kavalenka, who has lost at least 25 kilograms since his arrest, has repeatedly said his case is politically motivated.

He was forcibly fed by prison guards in January but said he had resumed his hunger strike 18 days ago.

Syarhey Kavalenka (right) as he was escorted into the Vitebsk courtroom on February 24
Poland's charge d'affaires in Belarus, Witold Jurasz, who attended the trial on February 24 and was permitted to briefly meet with Kavalenka, said he expected the European Union to state an official position on the case next week.

In accordance with the verdict in the flag-display case, Kavalenka had been ordered to report to local parole officers every Thursday and stay home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Then on November 24, parole officers told Kavalenka's wife that "from now on [your husband] has to stay at home after 7:30 pm."

Kavalenka later refused to sign a document confirming that he had been informed about the changes to his parole regime and that he agreed to them. Later the same day, several police officers from Vitsebsk's Pershamay district police department came to Kavalenka's apartment and took him into detention, allegedly having "verbally insult[ed] police using vulgar words.