Former presidential candidate arrested in Belarus | News | DW | 08.09.2015
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Former presidential candidate arrested in Belarus

A prominent Belarusian opposition figure has been arrested as he tried to re-enter the country after spending four years in exile. Ales Mikhalevich was a candidate in Belarus' 2010 presidential election.

News agencies on Tuesday reported that Ales Mikhalevich had been arrested while trying to cross into Belarus from European Union member state Lithuania by train.

"The border guards are looking into what they should do with me," Mikhalevich told the AFP news agency by phone.

His arrival should have come as little surprise to Belarus' border service, as he had used his Facebook account to announce his intention several hours earlier.

"I am about to cross the border, I know that I will be arrested," he wrote. "But one day or another, I will be freed. I want to live in Belarus, in my homeland. I want to be with my family."

He also alluded to why he had chosen this particular time for returning to the country.

"I always said that when all political prisoners are freed ... I will return immediately," he wrote.

Six opposition figures pardoned

His decision came after President Alexander Lukashenko surprised many by pardoning six prominent political prisoners, including Nikolai Statkevich, who, like Mikhalevich, was a candidate in the country's last presidential election.

The 2010 polls were marred by a violent crackdown on the opposition, in which most of the candidates challenging the 61-year-old Lukashenko were jailed.

Both Mikhalevich and Statkevich were found guilty of organizing the unrest on election night and handed six-year jail sentences.

Mikhalevich was imprisoned in a jail run by Belarus' secret service, the KGB, where he claims he was subjected to torture. After serving just two months of his sentence, Mikhalevich was released. He soon fled to the Czech Republic, where he was granted political asylum.

pfd/cmk (AFP, AP)