Belarus court jails protesters

A Belarussian court has jailed about a dozen protesters who were demanding President Alexander Lukashenko's resignation in the latest crackdown against dissent in the ex-Soviet state.

    Several hundred rallied against Lukashenko's rule on Friday

    The Minsk central court handed out on Monday sentences of up to 15 days in jail for some of the several hundred protesters who had gathered near Lukashenko's office on Friday.

    Belarus's small, divided opposition hoped to exploit protests which led to authorities being toppled in ex-Soviet Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. But while discontent with low living standards is rising, resistance remains limited.

    Andrei Klimov, former member of parliament and protest organizer, remained at liberty, but police said he might still face charges.

    "No one appeared in court by accident. We have plenty of proof for all of them - video film, witness accounts," Interior Ministry spokesman Oleg Slepchenko said.

    "This was a mass violation of public order. Some taking part were aggressive, hurling snowballs and chunks of ice at police."

    Several protesters suffered minor injuries at the illegal rally to mark the founding of the Belarussian People's Republic in 1918, crushed after little over a year by the Bolsheviks.

    First elected in 1994 on promises to uproot corruption and form a "union state" with Russia, Lukashenko keeps a tight grip on his country of 10 million, now bordering the European Union.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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