Press secretary of top Belarus opposition politician sentenced to 4 years for demonstration

By: The Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus - A leading Belarus opposition figure's press secretary was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison in connection with demonstrations that broke out after December's disputed presidential election.

More than 700 people, including seven presidential candidates, were arrested during protests over the result of the election, in which authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko was declared the overwhelming winner.

A court handed down the sentence to Alexander Otroshenkov, press secretary for candidate Andrei Sannikov, for participating in mass disorder, and sentenced two other demonstrators to three and 3.5 years respectively.

Sannikov was beaten by police at the protest and arrested; he remains in jail pending trial

The massive arrests prompted the European Union and the United States to impose travel sanctions on Lukashenko and other top Belarusian officials and to freeze their assets.

Lukashenko, in power since 1994, maintains a hardline regime in Belarus, stifling dissent and keeping the economy mostly under state control.

International observers said the vote count in the Dec. 19 election was seriously flawed. The European Union had offered 3 billion euros in aid to Belarus if the elections were seen as free and fair.


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