Two Belarusian Oppositionists Get Off Lightly

Opposition activist Vyachaslau Siuchyk was found guilty of "petty hooliganism" by a district court in Minsk on April 4, but the judge imposed no penalties on him, saying his offense was insignificant, Belapan reported. The police officers who detained Siuchyk on March 13 initially said they did so because he resembled a suspect in a criminal case, but later changed their minds and accused him of urinating in a public place (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 15, 2007). "These police officers are to be pitied. They were told to lie and policemen accustomed to lying during the present regime will become a big problem for society when the regime falls," Siuchyk said after the verdict. Earlier the same day, the same court found Belarusian Popular Front leader Vintsuk Vyachorka guilty of using obscene language in a public place but also released him, saying the offense was insignificant. The two verdicts may signal a change of tack for Belarusian judges, who last month punished dozens of opposition activists with short jail terms on charges of obscene public behavior. JM