Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Awtukhovich said to have attempted suicide in prison

Mikalay Awtukhovich, an entrepreneur who is serving a prison sentence which is widely seen as punishment for his criticism of authorities, attempted to take his own life in a correctional facility in Ivatsevichy, Brest region, human rights defender Aleh Volchak told BelaPAN.

Referring to an unnamed inmate of the prison, the activist said that Mr. Awtukhovich, 48, cut his wrists on December 15. The failed suicide attempt is most likely connected with the prison administration's pressure on Mr. Awtukhovich, he suggested.

Andrey Bandarenka, director of a human rights group called Platforma, confirmed the report. According to him, Mr. Awtukhovich was brought to the city hospital and received medical care after the suicide attempt. "At present he has his dressings changed, he has started eating and asked for books to be brought to him," Mr. Bandarenka told BelaPAN.

When reached by BelaPAN on Friday, the administration of the correctional facility refused to comment on the report.

Earlier this month, Mr. Awtukhovich was placed in a "cell-type room" for a month in punishment for an unspecified offense.

On May 6, 2010, the Supreme Court of Belarus sentenced Mr. Awtukhovich to a prison term of five years and two months under the Criminal Code’s Article 295, which penalizes the illegal handling of arms, ammunition and explosives, because of five hunting rifle cartridges found in his safe.

In his trial, 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, 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.

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.