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Prosecutor Seeks Four-Year Prison Sentence For Belarusian Activist

Svyataslau Baranovich appears in court on February 15.
Svyataslau Baranovich appears in court on February 15.

MINSK -- The state prosecutor has asked a Belarusian court to sentence an activist who took part in protests against a law obliging the unemployed to pay taxes on "social parasites" to four years in prison.

Svyataslau Baranovich, who was charged with attacking a police officer, pleaded guilty on the trial's first day on February 15, but said that the police officer he hit at a rally in March 2017 was not in uniform.

Baranovich's lawyer asked the court to consider a punishment that would not put his client behind bars.

The judge adjourned the trial, saying that Baranovich will be given the floor for a final statement on February 28 and that the verdict will be announced the same day.

After the 2015 law establishing a "parasite tax" sparked protests in Minsk and other cities in 2016 and 2017, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced that collection of the tax would be suspended until 2018.

On January 25 of this year, however, Lukashenka signed a decree canceling the law.

The law echoed Soviet-era legislation under which unemployed citizens could face criminal prosecution.

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