Belarus opposition leader plans to go on hunger-strike in jail

MINSK, October 18 (RIA Novosti) - An opposition leader and former presidential candidate in Belarus, currently serving a 5.5-year term in a penal colony, confirmed his intention Wednesday to go on a hunger-strike October 20.

Alexander Kozulin, 50, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, was arrested during a protest March 25 against the results of the March 19 presidential elections that saw President Alexander Lukashenko re-elected to a third term. Kozulin was convicted on charges of hooliganism, violating public order and refusing to obey law enforcement officers, and sent to a penal colony in the Vitebsk Region in the north of the republic.

Kozulin's wife Irina told RIA Novosti that her husband had no claims against the colony's authorities and his hunger-strike had political reasons.

She said that he wanted "the international community to pay attention to Belarus" and the UN Security Council to consider the situation in the country.

President Lukashenko was re-elected to a third term with a massive 83% of the vote. Although he has support in his homeland for maintaining relative stability in comparison with some other former Soviet republics, his human rights record has been fiercely criticized by international organizations.

The March elections were denounced by the opposition and international monitors as fraudulent, and opposition activists staged a five-day sit-in in Minsk's central square.