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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Belarusian court jails ex-presidential candidate for 5 years

RIA Novosti

22:12 14/05/2011

MINSK, May 14 (RIA Novosti) - A Belarusian court sentenced on Saturday a former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov to five years in prison for organizing mass unrest.

Sannikov, a former deputy foreign minister and leader of Belarus' Christian Democratic Party, stood as a candidate against "Europe's last dictator", Alexander Lukashenko and was one of seven candidates detained after the December 19 polls, called by international observers rigged and "flawed."

Sannikov's wife Irina Khalip, a journalist for the Belarusian Novaya Gazeta, was also detained, but then released. She is also charged with organizing mass riots. The verdict on Khalip's case is expected to be announced on Monday.

The United States and European Parliament have already condemned the verdict and called on an immediate release of the opposition activists.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, Mark Toner said in a statement that the United States is seeking the possibility of new sanction against Belarus.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said that the verdict was Belarusian regime's revenge for Sannikov's audacity.

"Andrei Sannikov was convicted, because he had stood firm on the truth and defended his country's democratic future," Buzek said in a statement.

The elections in Belarus saw incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for more than 15 years, win a fourth term in office with almost 80 percent of the vote. More than 600 people were detained during large-scale protests that broke out in the capital, Minsk.

Most of the detainees have been charged with administrative offenses, but dozens of criminal cases have been initiated over the protests, including several against former presidential candidates.



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