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Belarus: Head Of Constitutional Court Resigns

Minsk, 4 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - The head of Belarus' Constitutional Court announced his resignation today and accused President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of trampling the law and destroying democracy.

Chief judge Valery Tikhinya told a Minsk news conference he was quitting because he had failed to protect the country's 1994 Constitution from Lukashenka's controversial amendments. Tikhinya described the President's actions in the recent referendum which expanded his powers and extended his term as "legal vandalism."

Tikhinya said his deputy and two other judges had also resigned from the Constitutional Court and warned that other resignations might follow.

Last month the Constitutional Court ruled that the controversial referendum on constitutional amendments should not be legally binding, but Lukashenka promptly overruled the decision by decree.

Under the amended constitution, which was overwhelmingly approved, Lukashenka can appoint half the Constitutional Court judges and its chairman. Soon after the November 24 referendum Lukashenka warned the Constitutional court judges that they would only keep their jobs if they gave up what he called their "political bias."

Tikhinya said the judges had tended their resignations to speaker Semyon Sharetsky of the Parliament that was elected under the old constitution. Lukashenka however has disbanded that parliament and replaced it with a new legislative body full of his supporters. Constitutional Court judges' resignations must be approved by Parliament.