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Belarusian Court Sentences Opposition Activist


A court in Belarus has sentenced an opposition activist to four years in jail for taking part in a protest following President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election in December.

The court in Minsk convicted Vasily Parfenkov on Thursday of taking part in a "mass disturbance."

The judge said Parfenkov was part of a group that tried to break into a government building. The defendant told the court he participated in the opposition-led rally, but denied smashing the building's windows.

Parfenkov is the first detainee to appear in court from a group of more than 30 people still in custody following a post-election police crackdown. At least four candidates in the presidential election are among those being held.

The United States Thursday criticized the start of trials of those who participated in the December 19 protest.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the State Department, told reporters in Washington that the beginning of the trials is another negative step on the part of the Belarusian government.

Parfenkov was campaign manager for one of the main opposition candidates.

The opposition in Belarus says the December 19 presidential election was rigged. European monitors also criticized the vote count that declared Mr. Lukashenko won a fourth term in office. Belarusian police arrested hundreds of people as they forcibly broke up protests that broke out after the election.

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Mr. Lukashenko and top government officials seen as responsible for the police crackdown.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.

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