Belarus oppn sacks leader ahead of vote

Source ::: REUTERS

MINSK  A Belarussian opposition party has sacked its jailed leader, seen in the West as the country's most prominent political prisoner, ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

The Social Democrats decided on Sunday to replace Alexander Kozulin, a former presidential candidate who is serving a 5 ? year prison sentence for organising protests against President Alexander Lukashenko's 2006 reelection, by Anatoly Lenkovich, a former deputy head.

Kozulin, who had been involved in a personal dispute with Lenkovich, was appointed the party's honorary chairman, a ceremonial position. Kozulin last year refused an offer by Lukashenko to go free on condition he leaves Belarus, saying that amounted to exile.

Western countries demand his release as a condition for resuming dialogue with Minsk, accused of violating basic rights.

His supporters argued that the move to replace Kozulin would play into the hands of the government.



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