Belarussian opposition activist goes on trial

MINSK, Oct 30 (Reuters) - A Belarussian activist opposed to President Alexander Lukashenko went on trial on Monday in what the ex-Soviet state's main opposition leader described as a show trial liable to worsen already poor relations with the West.

Dmitry Dashkevich faces up to two years in prison on charges of membership of an unregistered organisation, the Young Front.

In the run-up to Lukashenko's March re-election, which sparked unprecedented street protests, Belarus imposed stiff penalties for several offences to counter what officials said was a threat to national security.

Several dozen activists paraded outside the courthouse as the trial of Dashkevich, 25, got under way.

"The Dashkevich trial is a show trial. The authorities were frightened by the spring protests and are using repression to make sure they don't happen again," said Alexander Milinkevich, the most prominent opposition candidate in the March poll.

"I am, unfortunately, pessimistic about this trial. The authorities say they want dialogue with Europe, but are doing nothing to ease the situation in the country," he told reporters outside the courthouse.

Lukashenko, accused by the West of crushing basic freedoms in the country wedged between Russia and three European Union members, won 83 percent of the vote to six for Milinkevich.

The proclamation of the results triggered protests up to 10,000-strong in tightly controlled Belarus, tolerated by police for four days before they were broken up. The United States and EU denounced the poll as blatantly rigged.

Dashkevich has been in detention since his arrest in September. His lawyer, Alexander Galiyev, told reporters he expected a verdict this week.

Four members of another group "Partnership" have been jailed from six months to years on similar charges.