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Polish-Belarusian Journalist's Trial To Take Place Behind Closed Doors

Detained Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut

Detained Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut

HRODNA, Belarus -- A prominent Polish-Belarusian journalist charged with insulting Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will go on trial next week behind closed doors, his wife has told RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

Andrzej Poczobut, the Belarus correspondent for the Polish daily "Gazeta Wyborcza," was detained in April and charged with "insulting the personal dignity and honor of the president" in his newspaper articles and online comments.

Poczobut's wife, Aksana, who visited him at a pretrial detention center on June 7, told RFE/RL the trial will start at 10.00 a.m. on June 14 at Hrodna's Lenin district court.

Poczobut is active in Belarus's Polish community and is a leading member of the embattled Polish cultural organization the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB).

He could face up to two years in jail if found guilty of insulting the personal dignity and honor of the president, or up to four years in jail if found guilty of libel that damages the personal honor and dignity of the president.

The Belarusian authorities' eviction of the ZPB from its office buildings near Minsk last year and the detention by police of a number of its activists strained ties between Belarus and the European Union.

The ZPB has been trying for five years to regain official registration in Belarus.

In 2009, Belarusian officials registered the pro-government Union of Belarusian Poles, an alternative organization representing Poles in Belarus.

The Polish government regards the ZPB as the only legal representative of the Polish minority in Belarus.

About 4 percent of Belarus's 9.7 million population are ethnic Poles.

Read more in Belarusian here