(Prague, Czech Republic -- February 26, 2008) Belarusian opposition leader Alyaksandr Kazulin told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's audience in Belarus today that: "I was able to listen to Radio Liberty in prison, and this made me feel free. You cannot imagine what it means, being behind the bars, behind the barbed wire, to breathe the air of freedom which is Radio Liberty."
Kazulin is serving a five and half year sentence for participating in protests that followed the 2006 presidential elections, in which he ran as an opposition candidate against president Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Kazulin got a temporary pass to attend today's funeral of his wife Iryna. She died February 23 after a long battle with cancer, but Kazulin was not allowed to see her before her death.
He said he had to go on hunger strike and tell prison officials he intended to be buried with his wife before permission was granted for him to attend the funeral service [article in English
]. Following his return to Minsk early this morning, Kazulin was interviewed in his apartment by Belarus Service correspondent Aleh Gruzdzilovich [photos, video and text in Belarusian
/ video and text in English
]. Kazulin also recounted his prison experience and grief in an on-line forum with Belarus Service listeners [text in Belarusian
] shortly before the funeral. He said he must return to the penal colony near the city of Vitebsk in a day or two and that he has become an avid listener of RFE/RL since his incarceration. Kazulin said he has a shortwave receiver in his cell and wakes up every morning to begin the day with the 6:00AM program of the Belarusian Service.
In October 2007, Iryna Kazulina was the Belarus Service's first "guest editor," using a program created by the service to encourage "citizen journalism" in Belarus as a platform to raise awareness of breast cancer. Kazulina's program was re-aired this past week.
RFE/RL's Belarus Service broadcasts eight hours of programming a day to Belarus, produced in Prague and the service's Minsk Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, medium wave and satellite broadcasts. Belarusian Service programming is also available via the Internet, at the service's website www.svaboda.org
and at www.rferl.org
; English-language news about events in Belarus
can be found on the RFE/RL website.