Roundup: Belarus sentences Polish diplomat for opposition protest

A Belarusian court on Monday sentenced a Polish diplomat to a jail term as punishment for participating in violent demonstrations against the government of the former Soviet republic, the Interfax news agency reported.

Mariusz Maszkiewicz, a former ambassador to the country, will face spend 15 days in a Belarusian detention centre, the report said. Maszkiewicz told reporters he did not regret his part in the protests, saying in part "I am proud I was there."

Poland's Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz on Monday in Warsaw termed Maszkiewicz's detention "scandalous" and completely "illegal", according to local media reports. Poland also suspended consular activities in Grodno, Belarus, in connection with what it termed the illegal detention by Belarusian officials of two other Polish diplomats.

Polish Consul General to Grodno, Andrzej Kretowski and his deputy Janusz Dabrowski were stopped late Sunday at the Kuznica Bailostocka- Bruzhi border point between Poland and Belarus. No reason was provided for their detention.

Further sanctions against Belarus were being considered, Poland's Foreign Ministry said Monday. Belarusian police detained former ambassador Maszkeiewicz on Saturday after authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashenko ordered law enforcers to charge crowds protesting his re-election.

Lukashenko earlier this month in a lopsided vote was returned to office for a third term. The international community has criticised the poll as riddled with fraud. Maszkiewicz has been participating in an anti-Lukashenko protest at the time of his arrest. He served at the head of Warsaw's legation to Belarus from 1998 to 2002, and at the present runs an NGO promoting closer links between ethnic Poles in Belarus and Poland.

Lukashenko has accused the group of acting as a CIA front working to undermine his government.

Another Minsk court handed down a ten-day jail sentence for Polish newspaper reporter Weronika Samolinska on Monday. Samolinska came into police custody on Friday after law enforcers demolished a tent encampment erected by anti-Lukashenko activists on a central Minsk square, and found her in the vicinity.

Russian television reporter Pavel Sheremet, arrested and beaten by police during the Saturday street battles, was in contrast released with all charges dropped - but in possession of a government order expelling him from Belarus by the end of Tuesday. Courts throughout the Belarusian capital were reportedly jammed with hundreds of cases against other demonstrators picked up in street melees between police and anti-government marchers.

More than 500 detainees, most students, will face charges, an opposition spokesman said.

State retaliation against demonstration participants also was reported in Minsk area universities, where students known by authorities to have marched against the government were being expelled, the report said.