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Belarusian Prosecutors Demand Seven Years For Opposition Leader


Former opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau sits in a cage during a court hearing in Minsk last month.

Former opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau sits in a cage during a court hearing in Minsk last month.

Belarusian prosecutors have demanded a seven-year prison sentence for opposition leader Andrey Sannikau on charges of organizing mass protests after last year's disputed presidential election.

A prosecutor told a court in Minsk that video evidence proved that Sannikau, who was among the candidates running against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the December 19 election, had called people out onto the streets.

Thousands of people gathered in a central square in the capital on election night to protest the results of the poll, which the opposition says was rigged.

Sannikau has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

He received a show of support from some of the observers in the courtroom after telling the court, "I know that my family and all people in Belarus will be happy once freedom arrives," and adding, "Belarus lives!"

"Freedom lives!" came the response from some of the spectators.

Sannikau is among dozens of opposition figures and activists standing trial over the postelection protests, including a number of other presidential candidates.

More than a dozen have already been sentenced to up to four years in prison for taking part in the protests.

On May 12, Sannikau asked the court not to consider testimony he gave in prison as it was given under constant torture and threats by the security service, the KGB, of possible harm to his wife and son.

compiled from agency reports
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