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April 26, 2011

Opposition Leader Andrei Sannikov Goes On Trial in Belarus

One of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's main political opponents has gone on trial in Minsk on charges of organizing mass protests against the disputed results of the presidential election last December.

Former Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Sannikov was one of seven presidential candidates arrested on December 19 during the protests in Minsk. He faces up to 15 years in jail if found guilty of the charges. The  57-year-old Sannikov heard the charges against him and watched the proceedings from a large metal cage in the courtroom.

Sannikov also is one of the founders of the opposition group known as Charter 97, which runs a computer news site with the same name.

The crackdown on the Minsk demonstration, which resulted in the arrests of hundreds of opposition activists and dissidents, has been condemned by human rights groups and Western governments.

Several opposition leaders have already received jail sentences for taking part in the protests.  Earlier Wednesday another Minsk court sentenced Sannikov election aide, Dmitry Bondarenko to a two-year prison term for helping organize the protests.