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Belarus Opposition Candidates Facing Formal Charges Over Unrest

Hundreds of protesters have been detained

Hundreds of protesters have been detained

Belarusian authorities have charged opposition presidential candidates in connection with the mass disturbances that broke out in Minsk following this month's election that resulted in a fourth term for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Western news reports from Minsk quote lawyers as saying at least four of the seven opposition candidates who were arrested have now been formally charged with organizing the disorder.

The Associated Press, quoting lawyers, says all seven candidates have been charged.

Reports say the candidates could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Tamara Sidorenko, a lawyer for candidate Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu, who was badly beaten on election night, has expressed fears over his health in prison, saying he has suffered an attack of hypertension in which his blood pressure soared.

Large-scale protests, accusing the authorities of rigging the election in favor of Lukashenka, broke out in the evening of the December 19 election, and more than 600 people were detained.

The European Union and the United States have condemned the election process and the arrests, while Russia has supported Lukashenka's rule.

compiled from agency reports