Belarusian Prosecutor Seeks Huge Fines For Jailed Russian Citizens

MINSK -- The Belarusian prosecutor at the Minsk trial of two Russian citizens accused of taking part in "mass unrest" in December has asked the judge to fine each defendant some $6,000, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The prosecutor insisted on March 10 that although Artyom Breus and Ivan Gaponov pleaded not guilty to the charge, their guilt was proven by the testimony of witnesses and victims in the case.

But RFE/RL reports that several Belarusian policemen -- considered by the court to be victims beaten by demonstrators on December 19 during postelection protests -- did not identify the two defendants as their attackers during testimony at the trial earlier on March 10.

Gaponov and Breus were arrested along with hundreds of Belarusian opposition activists who gathered with thousands of others in central Minsk to protest the official results of the presidential election, which declared incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka the runaway winner.

Several opposition presidential candidates were also arrested and jailed. Many activists and some of the candidates were also beaten.

Breus and Gaponov were released on December 29 but rearrested the same day and officially charged with participation in "mass unrest."

The Russian Embassy in Minsk said last month that Belarusian secret services "exerted pressure" on Breus and Gaponov during their investigation of their cases.

A total of 42 men and women have been officially charged with organizing and/or participating in the "mass unrest in Minsk on December 19." They include five opposition presidential candidates, two of whom are still jailed.

Opposition activist Vasil Parfyankou was found guilty in February of participation in the "mass unrest" and sentenced to four years in jail.


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