MINSK. Oct 26 (Interfax) - Andrei Sannikov, who ran in the Belarusian presidential election in 2010, has been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, Belarusian websites have reported, citing his wife Irina Khalip.
"We have decided not to comment on anything for now. It will be safer for our family at this stage," Khalip said.
Khalip is currently residing in Belarus because a court ruling bans her from leaving the country.
Sannikov said in an interview published on the Charter 97 web resource in commenting on his decision to ask for political asylum in the United Kingdom: "This was not an easy decision for me. But, believe me, I had no other choice. Either be subjected to torture and humiliation in prison, or keep a low profile."
"I have been and remain a Belarusian politician. I will continue to tell the truth about my country and seek to make sure that practical measures be taken to make Belarus democratic. I believe my decision will help real liberation of my wife and son, who are hostages to the Lukashenko regime now," Sannikov said.
Sannikov and Khalip were convicted under a criminal case dealing with mass disturbances in Minsk on December 19, 2010, when Belarus held presidential elections. A court found Sannikov guilty of organizing mass disturbances and sentenced him to five years in a high-security penitentiary. Khalip was sentenced to two years in prison, although her sentence was suspended for two years and is to expire in May 2013.
Sannikov filed a pardon plea to the president and was granted pardon on April 14, 2012.
Khalip cannot leave Belarus until her term expires.
Sannikov is the second former presidential candidate in the 2010 elections to appeal for political asylum in a European Union country after the December 19, 2010 events in Minsk. Former presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich was granted political asylum in the Czech Republic in 2011.
Mikhalevich was detained in Minsk along with some other presidential candidates in the 2010 elections and accused of organizing mass disturbances in the city on December 19, 2010.
After being released from the State Security Committee (KGB), Mikhalevich said he would not cooperate with Belarusian special services and fled abroad, leaving his wife and two children in Minsk.
Another person convicted under the same case, Dmitry Bondarenko, a member of Sannikov's campaign staff, left Belarus and remained in Warsaw about a month ago. Bondarenko was first convicted but, after filing a pardon plea, was pardoned by the president and went abroad.
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