Belarus website editor requests asylum in Lithuania
One of Belarus' leading opposition figures, Natalia Radina, has gained refugee status from the United Nations and is requesting political asylum in Lithuania, she said in a statement Monday.
Radina is the editor of opposition news website, Charter 97. Its founder Andrei Sannikov stood in December presidential polls that ended in a disputed victory for President Alexander Lukashenko and the jailings of candidates.
"After the presidential polls, the site charter97.org was registered in this country (Lithuania). My team is here, and today I can act as editor only in Vilnius. I requested political asylum on August 4," Radina wrote on the site.
She said she was arrested after the polls and placed in a Minsk prison run by the KGB security services along with dozens of other activists, but managed to flee to Moscow after her conditional release.
"After my release I was constantly threatened with a return to the KGB prison ... but what was more scary was that they would not let me work (on the website) in Belarus," she wrote.
Radina was forced to hide at friends' houses in Russia for four months and eventually turned to the UN Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, for help because the KGB did not return her passport, she wrote.
Strongman president Lukashenko launched a crackdown on the opposition that was unprecedented even in his authoritarian rule after his landslide reelection in December prompted mass street protests.
Dozens of former presidential candidates, opposition supporters and protestors were sentenced to up to six years in jail earlier this year, while the crackdown continues on a new series of "silent protests."
© 2011 AFP