Belarus jails more protesters over election rally

Belarus jailed more protesters yesterday for their part in an election rally against President Alexander Lukashenko last December, sentencing three men each to between three and four years in a top-security prison.

The three were among several hundred people who were initially rounded up in a police crackdown on the Minsk rally on Dec. 19, the day after Lukashenko was re-elected for a fourth term in power.

The crackdown prompted fresh sanctions by the United States and the European Union against Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994, including a travel ban on him and top Belarusian officials.

The opposition says the vote was rigged and international monitors deemed the count to have been deeply flawed. Western governments have called for those detained to be released.

Yesterday, the court found a press spokesperson for presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, who is himself detained pending trial, guilty of taking part in mass disturbances and sent him to prison for four years.

Two other opposition activists were given jail terms of three and three-and-a-half years after being found guilty of the same offence.

Their defence had argued that there was no evidence to support the charges.

On Feb. 17, Vasily Parfenkov, a Belarusian who was campaign manager for another candidate who ran against Lukashenko, became the first of more than 30 people to be tried for taking part in the disturbances. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.


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