Belarusian opposition leader claims he was tortured in jail

Minsk/Kiev - A Belarusian opposition politician on Monday defied the country's secret police and accused his jailers of torturing him and other detainees.

Ales Mikhailovich, a former presidential candidate, was held in pre-trial detention for two months on a charge of helping to organize mass anti-government demonstrations on December 19. He was released on Thursday.

Speaking at a Minsk news conference, Mikhalevich said the secret police, known as the KGB, had offered to release him in exchange for informing on other opposition politicians and for keeping silent about the torture of detainees.

'The conditions inside (KGB prisons) are absolutely appalling - they are torture,' Mikhalevich said in comments reported by Belapan. 'The KGB jail is a concentration camp.'

Mikhailovich said that the methods used by the KGB to break prisoners include sleep deprivation, exposure to cold and the shackling of limbs for hours at a time.

Mikhalevich said he agreed to become an informant because he had been tortured, but now he was publicly rejecting his deal with authorities.

'I cannot be a part of this,' he said. 'I probably will be arrested again very soon.'

Mikhalevich and some 25 other Belarusian opposition leaders face prison sentences of up to 15 years if convicted of involvement in the the December demonstrations. The massive protests followed a rigged poll in which President Aleksander Lukashenko won re-election to a fourth term.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus practically unchallenged for 17 years. He has called for the 'maximum prosecution' of those who led the protests.


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