Fri, 04 Dec 2020

MINSK -- A lawyer representing a top opposition activist in Belarus has been freed after a court imposed a fine against her on September 25, a day after she was detained by police.

Meanwhile, three journalists who have covered weeks of mass protests against the country's longtime authoritarian ruler have each been sentenced to about two weeks in jail.

The lawyer, Lyudmila Kazak, went missing on September 24 before police confirmed later in the day that she had been arrested. She was found guilty of 'failing to obey police' and fined about $260.

Kazak has defended Maryya Kalesnikava, a key member of a council Belarus's political opposition set up to push for a new presidential election in the wake of the disputed August 9 vote that officials said had given Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term in office.

The opposition and some poll workers claim that the results were falsified.

Kalesnikava is facing charges of undermining state security and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if she is convicted.

Kazak had relayed several messages to the public that Kalesnikava sent from jail -- including calls for protesters to continue anti-Lukashenka protests as well as allegations that law enforcement officers threatened to kill Kalesnikava.

'Freedom is worth fighting for. Do not be afraid to be free,' one of Kalesnikava's messages said. 'I do not regret anything and would do the same again.'

Kalesnikava has said Belarusian security forces drove her to the border with Ukraine to try to make her leave the country, but she tore up her passport.

Meanwhile, two journalists with the Polish-funded Belsat TV channel that covers Belarus were sentenced on September 25 to 12 days in jail and each fined about $310. They were charged with working without accreditation.

A Belarusian video journalist was also sentenced on September 25 to 15 days for 'involvement in mass disorder,' according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have been protesting daily since official results announced from the presidential election gave Lukashenka about 80 percent of the vote.

With reporting by AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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