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MINSK -- A Belarusian court has fined an opposition party leader and an activist for holding unsanctioned rallies.

The court in Minsk on November 20 fined the leader of the opposition United Civic Party, Anatol Lyabedzka, $500 for organizing an unauthorized rally in front of the KGB building in the capital on October 29.

Lyabedzka pleaded not guilty and said the goal of the gathering was to commemorate victims of the Stalinist purges.

The Minsk court also fined opposition activist Vyachaslau Siuchyk $600 for taking part in a separate unsanctioned protest against alleged plans to set up a Russian military base in Belarus.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been running Belarus with an iron fist since 1994.

Earlier this month, he was inaugurated for the fifth time following an election that was judged by Western monitors to be neither free nor fair.

The OSCE's representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, has deplored the decision of Russian authorities to label the nongovernmental organization Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF) as a “foreign agent.”

In a November 20 statement, Mijatovic said GDF had been “working tirelessly to protect and advocate for the rights of journalists in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States region” over the past 25 years.

She described the November 19 decision to include GDF in the register of “foreign agents” as a “serious obstruction to the important work media NGOs carry out and a threat to media pluralism in the Russian Federation.”

A law adopted in 2012 requires any NGO that receives funding from abroad and engages in political activity to register as a "foreign agent."

Amendments introduced to the law last year allow the Justice Ministry to forcefully add NGOs to the list of "foreign agents."

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