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Belarus opposition activists get suspended sentences

RIA Novosti

18:54 20/05/2011

MINSK, May 20 (RIA Novosti) - Two former Belarusian opposition presidential candidates and several election campaign activists were handed two-year suspended sentences on Friday.

A Minsk district court found Vladimir Neklyaev guilty of organizing mass protests that led to street disturbances over the results of last December's reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko.

More than 600 people were detained during large-scale protests that broke out in Minsk after the polls, which Western observers called "flawed."

Neklyaev, who had been under house arrest, was released in the courtroom.

Another former opposition candidate, Vitaly Rymashevsky, received a similar sentence.

Four of Neklyaev's campaign managers were each given two-year suspended sentences.

Russia on Monday criticized Belarus over its human rights record, following the long sentences handed down last week to protesters accused of involvement in the riots following the elections in Minsk in December.

Several dozen people, including two Russian nationals, have been convicted over the "December riots" in Minsk.

In the latest case, on Saturday a Belarusian court sentenced former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov to five years in prison for organizing riots.

Sannikov's wife Irina Khalip, a journalist for the Belarusian Novaya Gazeta paper, was also detained but then released pending trial. She is also charged with organizing riots.

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