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Belarus Opposition Members Stage Hunger Strike

3 June 2004 -- Three Belarusian opposition parliamentarians started a hunger strike today, demanding the release of an imprisoned colleague and changes to election laws.

The three members of the opposition Republican party faction announced their protest during a parliament session today. The move reportedly prompted security guards to usher journalists out of the building.

The three are calling for changes to election laws that would ensure a fair process at the October parliamentary elections. One of the three hunger strikers, Valery Fralou said: "We will not tolerate privatization of power in Belarus by [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka. We will not tolerate a president for life with the right to transfer power by hereditary succession. Nobody should have any illusions: a group of government officials are plotting a crime against the Belarusian people, a constitutional coup."

The three are also calling for the release of their opposition colleague, Mikhail Marynich, who was jailed in April on charges of stealing confidential documents.