Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Imprisoned Awtukhovich says that he wont seek Lukashenkas pardon

Mikalay Awtukhovich, a businessman widely viewed as a political prisoner, wrote to an opposition activist earlier this year that he would not appeal to Alyaksandr Lukashenka for a presidential pardon.

In his letter to Leanid Haravy, Mr. Awtukhovich, 50, stressed that he would stick to his principles and refuse to ask for Mr. Lukashenkas pardon "even if I know that I will be given a new prison term." "If you have not been broken, you have to fight till the end, without any compromises or conditions. I did nothing wrong to the homeland and the people, did not violate any laws, why should I appeal for a pardon? In my opinion, that would be wrong," a human rights group called Vyasna quoted Mr. Awtukhovich as saying in the letter.

Meanwhile, in a letter to a fellow veteran of the Soviet Unions war in Afghanistan, Mr. Awtukhovich congratulated all "former brothers in arms" on another anniversary of Soviet troops withdrawal from the Asian country and wished them to "remain not only humans but also citizens, so that we could shake each others hands without hesitation."

On May 6, 2010, the Supreme Court of Belarus sentenced Mr. Awtukhovich, a resident of Vawkavysk, to five years and two months in a medium-security correctional institution under the Criminal Code's Article 295, which penalizes the illegal handling of arms, ammunition and explosives, because of five hunting rifle cartridges found at his home.

Mr. Awtukhovich, who had already spent more than a year in jail, was cleared of charges of "preparations for an act of terrorism" against Uladzimir Sawchanka, then head of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee, and Deputy Tax Minister Vasil Kamyanko, and of involvement in an arson attack on the house of a former chief of the Vawkavysk district police department.

In December 2011, Mr. Awtukhovich was placed in a "cell-type room" in punishment for an unspecified offense. Two days later, he reportedly cut his wrists after being transferred to a room holding people at the very bottom of prison hierarchy who are shunned by fellow inmates.

In a trial held in Correctional Institution No. 5 in Ivatsevichy, Brest region, in January 2012, a judge of the Ivatsevichy District Court found Mr. Awtukhovich guilty of persistent violations of prison rules and ordered his transfer to a cell-type prison. Mr. Awtukhovich is now held in a prison in Hrodna.

Opposition activists and human rights defenders believe that the charges against Mr. Awtukhovich were trumped up in revenge for his criticism and corruption accusations. In December 2010, US-based Freedom House entered his name in its list of the world's most important imprisoned dissidents.