Belarusian opposition activist sentenced to 4 years in prison for participating in mass protests

MINSK, BELARUS: A Belarusian court on Thursday sentenced an opposition activist to four years in prison for participating in the mass protests against presidential election results.

According to RIA Novosti, Vasily Parfenkov was the first individual sentenced for participating in the December 19 protests. Parfenkov worked on the campaign staff of opposition presidential candidate Vladimir Neklayev.

The opposition activist was also ordered to pay $5,000 as fine for damaging state property, smashing windows and breaking doors. The defendant's lawyers said that they will appeal the ruling.

"As part of a rampaging mob, Parfenkov attempted to break into a government building, delivering at least 61 blows to a wooden fence at the entrance to the building," read the verdict of the Minsk court.

On Thursday, the first trial of protesters involved in the Minsk protests began at the courtroom of Frunzensky district court. Parfenkov was detained on January 4 and during trial it was found that he had a previous criminal conviction for damaging private property.

More than 600 protesters including eleven Russians were detained during the post-election mass protests against the reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko on December 19. The opposition alleged vote rigging and fraud.

In addition, Belarusian authorities arrested six opposition candidates, including Neklayev. The candidates were beaten and taken by KGB agents to undisclosed facilities until it was later informed that they were held at a KGB detention center. The candidates were later released.

Russia informed that representatives of the Russian embassy in Belarus will be present at the court hearings of Russian citizens Artyom Breus and Ivan Gaponov who were detained at the protests. The hearings were scheduled for February 22.


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