Belarus fines Polish reporter over anti-government protest

Minsk/Kiev - A Belarusian court on Thursday ordered a Polish newspaper reporter to pay a 580-dollar fine for his alleged part in an anti-government protest, the Interfax news agency reported.

Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarusian national who works for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, broke the law on December 19 by assisting others in participating in an illegal public gathering, the court ruling said.

More than 20,000 people demonstrated in Minsk that day against the rule of authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashnko.

Poczobut, a prominent member of Belarus' Polish community, was in the western city of Grodno at the time but, according to the court, aided people traveling from Grodno to Minsk to demonstrate.

Grodno police arrested Poczobut after paramilitary troops broke up the Minsk protests. He has been jailed since then.

Poczobut was freed from detention on Wednesday and returned to his home in Grodno, said his lawyer, Aleksander Galiev.

Twenty-nine of Lukashenko's opponents remain in detention pending trials on charges of inciting riots - a criminal offense in Belarus that carries a potential prison sentence of 15 years.

Lukashenko has cracked down on his opponents in the wake of the December demonstrations, targeting not just political enemies, but members of the media, students, ethnic Poles and relatives of opposition activists.


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