Swedish PEN awards prize to Uladzimir Nyaklyayew

Tue, 15/11/2011 - 13:23


Swedish PEN has awarded its Kurt Tucholsky Prize to Belarusian former presidential candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyayew.

In its statement, the Swedish literary and human rights organization described Mr. Nyaklyayew as an "outstanding poet and true advocate of freedom of speech."

The 65-year-old was not allowed by the Belarusian authorities to travel to Stockholm to collect the award at a November 15 ceremony, the statement said.

Swedish PEN said that Mr. Nyaklyayew, who spent weeks in jail after the December 19 post-election street protest in Minsk, had also planned to receive medical care during his stay in Sweden.

Earlier this month, Mr. Nyaklyayew said that he had been forbidden by the police to travel to a Western country for medical treatment.

According to the poet-turned-politician, he suffered four hypertensive crises while in the detention center of the Committee for State Security (KGB) this year and had serious problems with his back.

Mr. Nyaklyayew was beaten unconscious by men in black uniform half an hour before the closure of the polls on December 19, 2010 in an attack widely believed to have been masterminded by Alyaksandr Lukashenka's secret services. He was rushed to the Minsk City Emergency Hospital but was forcibly taken by plainclothesmen to the KGB detention center a few hours later.

On May 20, a district judge in Minsk sentenced Mr. Nyaklyayew to a suspended two-year prison term with two years' probation, finding him guilty of instigating disturbances in connection with the post-election protest staged in Minsk on December 19, 2010.

On September 9, a judge imposed a number of "additional restrictions" on Mr. Nyaklyayew's freedom, prohibiting him from organizing or taking part in demonstrations, leaving Minsk without permission from law enforcement agencies and traveling abroad until the expiry of his sentence. He was also ordered to stay at home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. //BelaPAN

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