Lost Presidential Candidates In Belarus Charged With Instigating Riots

(RTTNews) - Four candidates in the Belarus presidential elections have been charged with organizing riots during post-poll protests that turned violent early this month.

The lawyers of Andrey Sannikov, Nikolay Statkevich, Vladimir Neklyaev and Vitaly Rymashevsky said the lost presidential aspirants face charges of having called for the unauthorized rallies against the re-election of President Aleksander Lukashenko, which carry sentences of up to 15 years' jail term if found guilty.

They were among 26 Opposition members against whom the charges have been filed.

Incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected for a fourth term with a landslide majority in the December 19 elections.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) said Lukashenko secured 79.7 per cent of the polled votes, while none of his nine rivals could manage three per cent of the votes.

Declaration of the results followed violent anti-government protests in the capital with thousands of Opposition supporters taking to the streets alleging electoral fraud behind Lukashenko's victory.

Police and KGB agents detained more than 600 protesters, including presidential contestants. Rymashevsky and Neklyaev were injured when police broke up a rally of their supporters.

The United States and the European Union reiterated their call for the immediate release of the presidential mominees and the demonstrators who have been taken into custody in the wake of the elections.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton condemned "all violence, especially the disproportionate use of force against presidential candidates, political activists, representatives of civil society and journalists."

The elections and their aftermath represent an unfortunate step backwards in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights in Belarus, they said in a joint statement.

Last year, thousands of anti-government activists held nationwide demonstrations protesting the authoritarian rule of Lukashenko, dubbed by the United States as "Europe's last dictator."

the 56-year-old leader, who fell out with the Kremlin, his traditional supporter, has been recently seeking increased economic ties with anti-American countries such as Venezuela and Iran.

by RTT Staff Writer


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