Minsk, 29 August 1996 (RFE/RL) - A court in Minsk today began trying seven Ukrainian nationalists on charges of disturbing public order and insulting police officers in an anti-government rally in the Belarus capital last April.
The defendants allegedly took part in a rally marking the tenth anniversary of Chernobyl which turned into a violent anti-government protest. If convicted they could face sentences ranging from fines to three years in prison.
An RFE/RL correspondent says testimony will begin tomorrow. Prior to trial, the defendants were held in detention for four months. Two defendants claim to have been beaten in prison. The trial is open to the press and is being attended by a Ukrainian Parliamentary deputy.
All the defendants have pleaded innocent except one, who pleaded partially guilty to charges of disturbing public order and impeding traffic.
The defendants are members of a right-wing Ukrainian nationalist party which has made common cause with Belarus nationalists to keep both countries independent of Moscow. Minsk recently signed a vague association agreement with Moscow.