Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Syarhey Kavalenka released from prison

Opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka has been released from prison, his mother told reporters on Thursday.

In late June, the 37-year-old Vitsyebsk resident applied for a presidential pardon after coming under pressure from the administration of Correctional Institution No. 19 in Mahilyow.
According to Mr. Kavalenka’s wife, Alena, the pressure on her husband came to a head while he was staying in a punishment cell for another alleged violation of prison rules, struggling to sleep at night due to a very low temperature inside. During that period, he was visited in his cell several times a day and told to write to Alyaksandr Lukashenka that he repented of his act and viewed it as an act of hooliganism and not a political statement.

The head of the prison once visited Mr. Kavalenka and shamed him for leaving his son to grow up without his father.

Prison administrators later said that no repentance was necessary, and that he should simply write, 'I ask you to pardon me,’ and had no need to write that he repented and admitted his guilt.

Syarhey Kavalenka, a member of the Conservative Christian Party, was sentenced to a suspended three-year prison sentence in 2010 for putting a white-red-white flag on top of Vitsyebsk's tallest Christmas tree in early January.

On December 19, 2011, Mr. Kavalenka was arrested at home on a charge of violating probation rules and placed in the Vitsyebsk detention center. He was on hunger strike since his arrest and reportedly lost nearly 40 kilograms of weight.

On February 24, 2012, he was sentenced to two years and one month in prison.