Judge refuses to release Syarhey Kavalenka pending end of his trial

2012 2012-02-24T16:23:40+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en

Judge Alena Zhuk on Friday rejected a request for the release of opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka pending the end of his trial.

The trial of Mr. Kavalenka, a member of the Conservative Christian Party who is charged with violating probation rules, began in the Pershamayski District Court in Vitsyebsk on February 21.

Friday's session in the trial was interrupted after the 37-year-old Kavalenka, who has been on a debilitating hunger strike, complained that he was suffering from headache and was unable to understand what was going on in the courtroom.

Shortly before the recess was announced, Polish diplomat Witold Jurasz left the courtroom and said that Mr. Kavalenka's fate was decided not by the judge but by top government officials.
He offered words of support to Mr. Kavalenka's family and said that the European Union would express its opinion on the situation in Belarus at a meeting of its foreign ministers in Brussels on February 27.

Both Mr. Kavalenka and his brother, Vital, were examined during Friday's session. Mr. Kavalenka's examination was said to be a pure formality and took little time.

If found guilty, Mr. Kavalenka, who has been on hunger strike since his arrest on December 19, 2011, will have the suspension of his three-year prison sentence revoked.

The administration of the detention center where the activist is held started force-feeding him shortly after he began the protest.

Mr. Kavalenka was given the suspended three-year prison sentence in May 2010 for putting a white-red-white flag on top of Vitsyebsk's tallest Christmas tree in early January.

His arrest left his family without the breadwinner. His family includes his pregnant wife, two children, seven years and seven months of age, and his elderly mother.