Belarus relents over son of jailed dissidents

By Reuters

MINSK (Reuters) - Authorities in Belarus have ruled that a three-year-old boy, whose parents are being held by police following a crackdown on the political opposition, can continue to live with his grandmother, she said on Wednesday.

The boy, Danil, is the son of Andrei Sannikov, one of several opposition candidates who ran against Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in a December 19 election, and journalist Iryna Khalip.

Both were arrested in a police crackdown on the opposition after street protests over Lukashenko's re-election. They could face a prison term of 15 years on a charge of organizing mass unrest.

The boy's grandmother, Lyutsina Khalip, had earlier said that social workers had told her she had to prove her fitness to look after Danil. She feared this was an implicit threat to put the child in an orphanage as a means of putting pressure on his parents.

But the threat had now been lifted, Khalip said.

"Yesterday there was a decision by child custody officials that the child should stay in the family, that the state of my health is satisfactory, that the conditions of the home allow me to look after him. The decision will be officially announced next week, but the tentative decision has been made," she said.

Apart from Sannikov, three other presidential challengers are still being held as well as scores of political activists and dissidents rounded up after the December 19 unrest.


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