Belarus jails another opposition leader

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Friday, 10 March: 14.45 CET) - A court in Belarus has jailed an opposition leader for two weeks, making it impossible for him to run in the 19 March presidential elections against long-time ruler Aleksandar Lukashenko.

Vintsuk Vyachorka, leader of the opposition Belarus Popular Front, was jailed on Friday for two weeks for organizing an unauthorized rally.

Earlier this week, other opposition figures were also detained, including campaigners for presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich.

Last week, another opposition candidate, Social Democratic Party leader Alexander Kozulin, was briefly detained and allegedly beaten by police after trying to get into a conference being addressed by Lukashenko.

Kozulin could face a maximum sentence of six years in prison for "malicious hooliganism", prosecutors said, according to news reports.

In the last couple of months, hundreds of opposition supporters have been arrested for participating in anti-Lukashenko protests.

Ahead of the elections, Lukashenka has ordered agencies boost security to prevent a "color revolution" such as the ones in recent years that succeeded in ousting long-time leaders in Ukraine and Georgia.

Lukashenko, who has ruled what the US has called "Europe's last dictatorship" since 1994, is widely expected to win the poll.

On Wednesday, US House of Representatives adopted a resolution supporting democratic processes in Belarus and urging authorities to conduct free and fair presidential elections.

The EU also called on Belarusian authorities to assure presidential elections are free and fair.