Imprisoned for a Belarusian flag
The trial of Syarhei Kavalenka [also called Sergei Kovalenko, from the Russian transcription) in Vitsebsk (in the East of Belarus) had to be halted today with the imprisoned opposition activist, who has been on hunger strike, needing to be hospitalized.
This was apparently decided only after a second medical examination. Mr Kavalenka’s relatives had been appalled by his appearance in court and insisted on the second, after a first found his condition “satisfactory”. Syarhei’s mother was so distressed when she saw her son, who has apparently lost 25 kilograms, that she shouted “What have you done to my son? They’re killing him”.
In January 2010, Syarhei Kavalenka received a three-year “restricted freedom” sentence for hoisting the prohibited white, red and white flag, the historical symbol of Belarus “in a public place”.
Andrzej Pochobut, himself imprisoned by the regime earlier, writes in the Polish Wyborcza newspaper that the photo of the Belarusian flag on a New Year tree began an Internet hit. At the time, he says, Lukashenko was flirting with the West, hoping for western loans and therefore the authorities avoided a high-profile trial at the time.
He was then arrested in December and charged with violating the terms of his sentence.
He went on hunger strike in protest. He was force-fed in January but says he resumed his hunger strike 15 days ago.
Syarhei Kavalenka could face a three-year jail term if convicted.
From reports at Wyborcza and press agencies. The photo of the tree is by Siargiej Sierabro posted on Wyborcza