Gorbachev wants Minsk to free reporter held after election violence

Minsk/Moscow - Former Soviet Union leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev Thursday backed calls for the government of Belarus to free a television reporter detained after this weekend's post-election violence.

Irina Chalip was arrested while appearing live in Minsk during the aftermath of the vote, which saw thousands of people take to the streets to protest what they said was vote fixing in favour of incumbent President Alexsander Lukashenko.

Chalip, the mother of a 3-year-old, has been threatened with 15 years incarceration for fomenting unrest.

Gorbachev made no direct comments on Chalip's case, but signed a petition for her release circulated by her employer, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the broadcaster Echo Moskvy reported Thursday.

Most of the Belarusian opposition candidates - including Chalip's husband, Andrey Sannikov - were detained following the post-election protests. Government forces broke up the demonstrations violently, detaining nearly 600 people.

Belarus has refuted claims by international bodies that the election was run improperly.


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