NAVAPOLATSK, Belarus -- A Belarusian opposition activist has opted to pay a $22 fine to avoid spending several days in pretrial detention, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.
Police in the northern town of Navapolatsk detained Viktar Kalesnik and his two friends, Yauhen Parchynski and Illya Bahdanau, on the night of May 11 near a newspaper kiosk.
Parchynski and Bahdanau were later released, but Kalesnik was held overnight in a pretrial detention center. He was officially charged with "loudly pronouncing vulgar words in a public place."
Kalesnik says the "public place" turned out to be near the newspaper kiosk where he and his friends were detained.
Kalesnik was taken to the town court early this morning, but the policemen summoned to testify as witnesses did not show up.
Officials then offered Kalesnik a choice between spending several more days in pretrial detention or paying a 70,000 Belarusian ruble ($22.60) fine. He chose the latter.
Kalesnik told RFE/RL on May 12 that after being detained, the police first took them to a local hospital to check whether they were drunk. After medical tests turned out to be negative, they were taken to a police station where they were asked to provide a written account of how they had spent the day.
Numerous placards expressing support for the jailed opposition activists were pasted on fences and buildings in Navapolatsk on May 11.
Kalesnik was a representative in Navapolatsk of presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau, who is currently on trial in connection with the demonstrations in Minsk on December 19 protesting incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's reelection. Read more in Belarusian here