Court sentences Belarusian activist to 2 years in prison for insulting president

The Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus A Minsk court sentenced a Belarusian rights activist to two years at a prison colony Monday for saying authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko needed a psychiatric examination.

In convicting Yekaterina Sadovskaya, the Leninsky District Court pointed to the unpublished statement by her organization Veche that also called for a boycott of the March presidential election and accused Russian special agents of supporting "the Belarusian dictator."

"In Belarus, they even try you for your thoughts," Sadovskaya said after the sentence was handed down. "Lukashenko has turned human rights in Belarus into an empty sound."

Police found and confiscated the Jan. 21-dated statement during a search of her apartment even though she had not distributed it anywhere. During the trial, she confirmed she was the author of the statement.

The court also fined her 4 million Belarusian rubles (US$2,000; ?1,600) for moral damages that she allegedly inflicted against judges in the provincial town of Kirov during a trial of local residents.

The 60-year-old activist has been arrested and fined several times in the past for trying to organize pickets demanding that Belarusian authorities respect human rights.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic for more than a decade, is a pariah in the West for his iron-fisted ruled, quashing all dissent.

Western observers say the March vote was severely flawed.