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Belarus: EU Criticizes Sentencing Of Oppositionists

Brussels, 29 June (RFE/RL) - The EU criticized Belarus today over suspended prison sentences handed down to two opposition leaders and called for the two to be allowed to take part in parliamentary elections this autumn. The EU said the sentences demonstrate the obstacles which restrict the activities of opposition politicians in Belarus. The EU said Belarus must take steps -- including releasing detained political figures -- to create a climate of confidence for the election. The body says it will only send observers to monitor the elections if measures are implemented.

Social Democratic Party leader Nikolai Statkevich and political activist Valeri Shchukin were given suspended sentences two weeks ago by a Minsk court and barred from taking part in the election.

Both denied charges of staging an unauthorized rally in Minsk last year which erupted into clashes between police and protestors.