Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Lawyer denied meeting with Sannikaw

Andrey Sannikaw's lawyer has once again been denied a meeting with the imprisoned former presidential candidate.

As Mr. Sannikaw's wife, Iryna Khalip, told BelaPAN, lawyer Andrey Varvashevich visited the Vitsba 3 correctional institution near Vitsyebsk on Thursday, but the prison chief rejected his request for a meeting with the opposition politician. The official explained that he was conducting an inquiry to establish whether Mr. Sannikaw's life was in danger behind bars.

According to Ms. Khalip, on January 11 she received a reply from the interior ministry's Corrections Department to her complaint about Mr. Sannikaw's months-long lack of access to his lawyers. The Corrections Department said with reference to the Vitsba 3 prison that Mr. Sannikaw was not in need of legal assistance at present.

Ms. Khalip also said that she had received a "very strange" letter from Mr. Sannikaw on January 11. In the two-page letter dated January 3, the politician did not write a single word about himself and did not ask any questions about his family but wrote in detail how flowers at the couple's home should be watered.

Mr. Sannikaw's lawyers plan to complain to the UN Human Rights Committee about the denial of access to their client, Ms. Khalip said.

On May 14, a district judge in Minsk sentenced the 57-year-old Sannikaw to five years in prison, finding him guilty of "organizing mass disorder" in connection with a post-election protest staged in the Belarusian capital city on the night of December 19, 2010.

Mr. Sannikaw, a former deputy foreign minister, was severely beaten during riot police's violent crackdown on the crowd in front of the House of Government and was arrested shortly afterward.

On July 15, a three-judge panel of the Minsk City Court upheld his prison sentence.

On September 20, Mr. Sannikaw was transferred from a prison in Navapolatsk to Correctional Institution No. 2 in Babruysk. He was removed from the prison in mid-November, held for a few days in Correctional Institution No. 4 in Mahilyow and then brought to the Vitsba 3 prison.

According to the central election commission, Mr. Sannikaw was the runner-up in the December 14-19 election with 2.43 percent of the vote.