Criminal case opened against Kozulin

From: Agence France-Presse

March 27, 2006

AUTHORITIES in Belarus disclosed where they were holding Opposition Leader Alexander Kozulin and said he was being investigated on hooliganism charges that carry a possible jail term of up to six years, Mr Kozulin's wife said.

"We threatened to go with a big column of journalists and supporters and stand outside the remand centre. Only then did they admit they were holding him there," said Irina Kozulina, confirming that her husband was at a remand centre in the town of Zhodino, outside Minsk.

Mr Kozulin was arrested yesterday as he attempted to lead a group of protesters to a jail in Minsk where fellow opposition supporters had been held during a wave of post-election protests in the last week.

The march was intercepted by riot police who beat protesters and made numerous arrests.

Mr Kozulin was one of two opposition figures who stood against Alexander Lukashenko at a March 19 presidential election, but was officially given only a tiny proportion of the vote.

Irina Kozulina said that friends and relatives would travel to Zhodino.

Mr Lukashenko's election to a third term in office on March 19 prompted unprecedented levels of protest in Belarus as the opposition and Western observers said the vote was rigged.