Belarus opposition figures to face charges for election protests
Seventeen opponents of Belarus' authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashenko will face criminal charges and prison sentences for their part in recent anti-government protests, according to a human rights group Wednesday, DPA reported.
Six of the nine politicians who ran against Lukashenko in Sunday's presidential poll, four of their campaign staff and two journalists are among those facing charges of "inciting mass disorder," according to a statement by the Minsk-based Vesna group.
The charges they face carry a penalty of three to 10 years in prision, Vesna said.
More than 20,000 Lukashenko opponents protested in the capital Minsk on Sunday night against alleged election fraud. The former collective farm boss received 79 per cent of the vote, according to official vote counts.
Police used force to break up the demonstration, arresting more than 600 people. Local judges on Tuesday found most of the detainees guilty of the misdemeanor charge of public disorder.
They were fined or got jail sentences ranging from five to 15 days.
Lukashenko said Monday he would make sure those found responsible for organizing the demonstrations were "prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
The international community has criticized Lukashenko for using Soviet electoral tactics to win the presidential vote and for the use of force against protesters.