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The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana has demanded that Belarus
The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana has demanded that Belarus opposition leader Alexander Kozulin be released from prison "immediately and unconditionally."

Belarusian authorities granted Kozulin three-days compassionate leave to attend the funeral of his wife, Irina, who died from cancer Saturday. Kozulin, who is serving a five and a half year sentence, launched a hunger strike to try and get permission to attend his wife's funeral scheduled for Wednesday.

Kozulin challenged President Alexander Lukashenko at the 2006 presidential polls and was later imprisoned for organizing demonstrations in protest at the election results that saw Lukashenko re-elected to a third term.

"Mr Kozulin's release would mean the release of all political prisoners," Solana said in a statement on Monday. "I sincerely hope that this important step will be taken."

Solana last urged Belarusian authorities to rescind Kozulin's sentence which he called "clearly politically motivated" in July 2006.

The U.S. presidential press secretary also issued a statement on Monday calling for Kozulin's "immediate and unconditional release."

"President Bush extends his condolences to Aleksandr Kozulin and to the Kozulins' daughters, Olga and Yuliya, on the death of their wife and mother. Irina Kozulina was an indomitable advocate in her own right for freedom in Belarus and she will be missed," the White House said in a statement.

The opposition leader said he was planning to launch a suit against Lukashenko for his wife's moral suffering during his three-day leave. He also pledged to continue his hunger strike upon return to prison.

"I will never ask for amnesty. I will continue the hunger strike in the colony demanding my release and the release of Young Front member Andrei Kim [a leader of an opposition movement]," Kozulin said.

A criminal case has been launched against Kim, a participant in a protest by small business heads in Minsk on January 21, 2008. Kim was charged with "using violence or threatening violence against police officers" and is facing up to six years in prison.

Belarusian human rights activist Roman Kislyak and members of the country's democratic movements sent a letter on Monday to Prosecutor General Grigory Vasilevich demanding Kim's release.


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