Published: March 29, 2005

Belarus Protesters Convicted

By The New York Times

MOSCOW, March 28 - A court in Belarus on Monday convicted nearly three dozen people arrested during a violent protest against the government on Friday in the capital, Minsk, and sentenced them to relatively short terms of 3 to 15 days in jail, one of the protest organizers said.

The protest, inspired by the popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan, involved more than 1,000 people before security forces broke it up.

Andrei Y. Klimov, a businessman and former member of Parliament who helped organize the protest, said it was the first step toward eroding the nearly dictatorial grip of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has governed since 1994 and last year won a disputed referendum that let him seek re-election indefinitely.

"Belarussians are not obedient slaves," Mr. Klimov said in a telephone interview, vowing that Mr. Lukashenko would be forced to resign before facing election again in 2006. "They are civilized people who are hoping to live in a free and democratic Europe."