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Alyaksandr Atroshchankau
MINSK -- A Belarusian opposition activist has lost an appeal to have his criminal conviction for protesting last year's presidential election overturned, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The Minsk City Court today rejected an appeal by Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, who was press secretary for jailed former presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau.

Atroshchankau was arrested on December 20, one day after the mass protests in Minsk following the announcement of the reelection for a further term of incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Atroshchankau was later found guilty of participating in mass disorder and sentenced to four years in jail. On September 14 he was released in line with Lukashenka's decision to pardon some of the participants in the December protests.

Atroshchankau told RFE/RL today that although he was released, he still officially has a criminal conviction on his record that he considers unwarranted.

"I will continue appealing the verdict as I am fully innocent, and therefore I have to clear my name and make the judges who tried me correct their mistake," he said. "It was not President Lukashenka, but some specific persons who wrongly tried me, and they must be held accountable for their mistake."

Sannikau was jailed for five years in May for his role in organizing the December mass protest that officials categorized as mass unrest.

Read more in Belarusian here
Yulia Tymoshenko listens as the judge reads the verdict on her case in a district court in Kyiv earlier this month.
BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament has deplored the jailing of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on abuse-of-office charges "as a violation of human rights and an abuse of the judiciary."

The resolution passed overwhelmingly by the chamber urges authorities in Kyiv to ensure a fair and transparent appeal process.

The text, which was supported by all five major political groups, also says Tymoshenko should be allowed to participate fully in the political process both now and in future Ukrainian elections.

Tymoshenko was jailed for seven years earlier this month on abuse-of-office charges stemming from a 2009 natural gas deal she signed with Russia while in office. The European Union roundly condemned the sentence when it was pronounced and a recent visit to Brussels by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was called off last week.

The resolution states that this visit "would have offered an excellent opportunity to tackle serious concerns which have been addressed to the Ukraine government" and urges the EU Commission and Council to reschedule the meeting before the planned EU-Ukraine summit in December.

The European Parliament indicated that a trade agreement between Brussels and Kyiv, which is expected will be signed during the December summit, might be put on ice if the sentence is not changed.

"A failure to review Yulia Tymoshenko's conviction will jeopardize the conclusion of the association agreement and its ratification, while pushing the country further away from the realization of its European perspective," it says.

"Ukraine is a European state with a European perspective," Member of the European Parliament Elmer Brok added. "We must have an association agreement with Ukraine, but Ukraine must go in the right direction and cannot systematically persecute the opposition and tread on the rule of law. The fate of the Ukrainian citizens is now in the hands of President Yanukovych."

The EU lawmakers also expressed concern about the deterioration of media freedom and pluralism in Ukraine and the continued detention of former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, who is on trial on similar charges as Tymoshenko.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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