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Belarus: Journalists Sent Into Internal Exile

Minsk, 31 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Two Belarusian journalists convicted of libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka were sent today for internal exile in two of the most depressed areas of the country. Nikolai Markevich, chief editor of the "Pahonia" (Pursuit) newspaper, and "Pahonia" reporter Pavel Mozheiko were convicted in June in the western city of Hrodno of libeling the president.

The journalists were convicted in connection with an article printed in the run-up to September 2001 presidential elections, calling on voters not to support Lukashenka. The 11,000 issues were confiscated in the printing house before they could be distributed.

Markevich is to spend one year and a half in the town of Osipovichi in the Mohilau region, while Mozheiko will spend a year in Zhlobin in the Homel region.

Both towns are located in areas badly affected by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster in nearby Ukraine. Markevich and Mozheiko will be required to work on construction sites during their sentences.