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Belarus grants temporary release to opposition politician jailed over protests

[JURIST] Belarusian authorities Tuesday granted jailed opposition politician Alexander Kozulin [CFR profile and interview] a three-day release from prison to attend the funeral of his wife, who died on Saturday. Kozulin was sentenced to over five years in prison in July 2006 for leading unauthorized protests over the controversial re-election [JURIST reports] of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] earlier that year. Kozulin, his daughters and other supporters had gone on hunger strike to protest authorities' initial refusal to let Kozulin attend the funeral; Kozulin's lawyer said that they ended the strike Tuesday. US and EU officials had also urged Belarus to release Kozulin [JURIST report].

The Supreme Court of Belarus last Friday ordered the release of a former newspaper editor who had been sentenced [JURIST reports] to three years in prison for reprinting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive], a move interpreted as an attempt to improve relations with the West. Lukashenko has recently sought to improve his country's ties with western nations, but the US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Belarus pending the release of all political prisoners. AP has more.

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