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RFE/RL Belarus Service First With News of Arrest of Prominent Opposition Leader


(Prague, Czech Republic--March 14, 2007) RFE/RL's Belarus Service was the first news service in Belarus to report the arrest in Minsk last night of Vintsuk Viachorka, the chairman of Belarus' largest opposition party, the Belarusian Popular Front. The service broke the news and updated developments on its website, www.svaboda.org as well as on its "Night Liberty" broadcast, from 10:00-11:00 p.m. local time (4:00-5:00 p.m. EDT).

Viachorka and another opposition leader arrested last night, Viachaslau Siuchyk of the Christian-Conservative Party, will reportedly be tried for violating Belarus' administrative code. They have been calling on citizens to attend a rally on March 25, a date the opposition calls "Freedom Day," prior to the rally's having been sanctioned by city authorities. If convicted, they face up to 25 days in jail.

Both Viachorka and Siuchyk were released today from police custody, but are scheduled to stand trial on March 23. A post-release interview with Siuchyk has been broadcast today by the Belarus Service. Siuchyk also pledged to honor a previous commitment to respond to listeners' questions during a live Belarus Service broadcast from Minsk on Thursday evening, March 15.

The arrest of both leaders coincides with a countrywide campaign of police harrassment and interrogation of oppostion youth activists ahead of the planned demonstration on March 25.

Moer information about the arrests (in Belarusian) can be found at the Belarus Service's website.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service broadcasts eight hours of programming a day to Belarus, produced in Prague and the service's Minsk Bureau and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, medium wave and satellite broadcasts. Belarusian Service programming is also available via the Internet, at the service's website www.svaboda.org and at www.rferl.org; English-language news about events in Belarus can be found on the RFE/RL website.
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