Updated at 11:30,08-12-2016

Associates fear for safety of Zmitser Dashkevich

Associates have called for all-round effort to "save" young opposition activist Zmitser Dashkevich whose safety they say is under threat in Correctional Institution No. 13 in Hlybokaye.

Andrey Sannikaw who shared a cell in the Vitsyebsk transfer center for prisoners in transit with Mr. Dashkevich on September 20 voiced his concern about the safety of the chair of an opposition youth organization called Malady Front when meeting with his lawyer on September 27, Mr. Sannikaws wife, Iryna Khalip, told reporters in Minsk on Wednesday.

According to Ms. Khalip, the former presidential candidate said, "Use any means to save Dashkevich or he wont survive otherwise".

Messrs. Dashkevich and Sannikaw were put in the transfer center after being removed from correctional institutions in which they had originally been placed to be transferred to other prisons.

Ms. Khalip said that they had shared the cell with two more men who had "behaved oddly". One of them was often taken away for what he said routine injections; the man told Mr. Dashkevich that he had learned that the opposition activist would "have problems" in the Hlybokaye prison and would, perhaps, be killed, Ms. Khalip said.

Mr. Dashkevich was in poor condition, she said, noting that he had lost weight after going on hunger strike on September 13. According to her, he began eating food but still felt weak.

Speaking at the news conference, human rights activist Alena Tankachova also expressed fears for Mr. Dashkevich.

"We have obtained information that suggests that Zmitser Dashkevichs personal safety and, perhaps, his life are under a serious threat", the rights defender said without disclosing the sources of the information.

Ms. Tankachova urged foreign diplomats to try to meet with Mr. Dashkevich during the remainder of the day to get more information about his health and imprisonment conditions.

She said that there was also serious concern about former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich held in a correctional institution in Shklow. Associates have had no news of him for the last two weeks, she said.

Mr. Dashkevich was removed from Correctional Institution No. 9 in Horki at the beginning of last week to be placed in Correctional Institution No. 13 in Hlybokaye, which is considered to be one of the toughest prisons in Belarus. People convicted of murder and other serious crimes are usually placed there. Last month its former inmate, Yury Linha, met with reporters in Minsk to reveal that inmates had regularly been beaten in the prison.

On March 24, a judge of the Maskowski District Court in Minsk sentenced Mr. Dashkevich to two years in a minimum-security correctional institution, finding him guilty of "especially malicious hooliganism".

He was arrested in Minsk on December 18, on the eve of a scheduled large-scale post-election demonstration, for allegedly beating up two passers-by.

Speaking during his trial, Mr. Dashkevich said that the incident was a provocation orchestrated by authorities and accused the two alleged victims of giving false testimony.