Belarusian Activist Serving Prison Sentence For Protests Reportedly Dies Of Heart Attack

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service

A Belarusian political activist who was sentenced in January to five years in prison for participating in anti-government protests has reportedly died.

The precise circumstances of Vitold Ashurak’s death weren’t immediately clear. The news website Onliner and other media said he suffered a heart attack in a prison facility in eastern Belarus.

Ashurak, 50, was a member of the Belarusian Popular Front opposition party and a coordinator of the For Freedom movement.

At a closed-door trial in January, a court found him guilty of gross violations of public order and violence against police.

Exiled opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya condemned prison authorities for allowing Ashurak’s death.

"People are not just suffering, people die because of the regime in Belarus," she said in a post to Twitter.

Tens of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets for months last year after Alyaksandr Lukashenka declared a landslide reelection victory in a vote in August that was widely disputed.

Tsikhanouskaya has called for new elections, something Lukashenka has refused to agree to.

The European Union and the United States have sanctioned Lukashenka and dozens of officials and businessmen with asset freezes and visa bans.

In response to Ashurak's death, European Union spokesman Peter Stano said the bloc "demands the immediate release" of all political prisoners.

With reporting by AFP