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Belarusian Rights Activists Dress As Santas To Protest Law

Belarusian activists march to parliament with their petition.

Belarusian activists march to parliament with their petition.

A group of some 20 Belarusian rights activists -- some dressed as Santa Claus and snow maidens -- marched in downtown Minsk today to give lawmakers a petition protesting restrictions on the public activities of unregistered organizations, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

No deputies from the parliament's lower house, the Chamber of Representatives, appeared to take the petition, which was left in a mailbox at its headquarters.

The activists are demanding that parliament abolish Article 193 of Belarus's Criminal Code, which allows fines, six months' detention, and jail terms for up to two years for participating in the activities of a political, social, or religious organization that is not officially registered.

A similar petition was delivered during a public action to Belarus's prosecutor-general in November.

By dressing as Santas and snow maidens, the demonstrators are attempting to poke fun at the law, which criminalizes activity of an unregistered group no matter how benign -- even, for example, a group of unregistered Santa Claus lookalikes.