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Alyaksandr Milinkevich spent 15 days in jail for organizing an unsanctioned protest rally in April (file photo) (Bymedia.net)
May 22, 2006 -- Belarusian authorities have warned opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich that he could be jailed for publicly criticizing President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Milinkevich said he was summoned by prosecutors today and warned about "discrediting" Belarus, a charge punishable by up to two years in prison.
Milinkevich says the warning was issued because of interviews he gave recently to the Polish newspaper "Rzeczpospolita" and to the BBC.
Prosecutors allege that in one of the interviews he implicated the Belarusian authorities in the death of a Polish diplomat in Belarus days after the March 19 presidential election, and in the other he spoke of vote-rigging in the poll.
Milinkevich was the main opposition challenger in the vote, in which Lukashenka was reelected to a third term. Both the opposition and Western nations condemned the election as fraudulent, and Milinkevich served 15 days in prison for participating in protests against the election result.
(Belapan, charter97.org, Reuters)
A police officer closes the gate on a Minsk detention center after demonstrators were brought there on March 24, 2006 (RFE/RL)
LOOKING BACK: On March 21, 2006, RFE/RL's Washington office hosted a briefing on the March 19 presidential election in Belarus and its unfolding aftermath. The roundtable discussion featured CELESTE WALLANDER, director and senior fellow at the Russia and Eurasia Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; "The New York Times" Moscow correspondent STEVEN LEE MYERS; and RFE/RL Belarus Service Director ALEXANDER LUKASHUK (the latter two speaking via telephone from Minsk).
The roundtable discussion focused on the actions of the administration of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka during the campaign and the election and on what the world can expect from Lukashenka's third term in office.
Listen to the entire briefing (about 60 minutes):
THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to view a dedicated page with news, analysis, and background information about the Belarusian presidential ballot.