Correspondent of Polish newspaper charged with insulting, libeling Belarusian president


Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut, a correspondent of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, has been indicted for libel against and insult of the Belarusian president, Belarusian media reported citing a spokesperson for the Grodno regional prosecutor's office.

The Belarusian criminal law stipulates that a person found guilty of insulting the president may be imprisoned for up to two years and for libeling the president for up to four years.

Poczobut is currently being held in custody for violating his travel restriction pledge.

"Poczobut was detained on Wednesday evening under an investigator's warrant because, having been formally barred from traveling, he declared his intention to leave the city," the Grodno prosecutor's office spokesperson said.

The investigation reasoned that, by leaving his place of residence, Poczobut would obstruct investigative procedures under a criminal case that was opened against him earlier.

Poczobut intended to travel to Minsk on Wednesday evening to take part in a TV link between the European Commission's office and a European Parliament delegation.

Poczobut is a citizen of Belarus and works for Gazeta Wyborcza, although he is not accredited with the Belarusian Foreign Ministry as a correspondent of a foreign media outlet. The Foreign Ministry stripped Poczobut of his accreditation in 2009 and has repeatedly denied reopening. Work as a foreign correspondent without accreditation in subject to fine in Belarus.

It was reported in January 2010 that the Oktyabrsky District Court in Minsk fined Poczobut an equivalent of $580 for taking part in the December 19, 2010 rally in the center of Minsk.


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