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Belarusian Language Activist Gets Five Days In Jail

Belarusian artist Henik Loyka (center) at his court hearing in Minsk.
MINSK -- A Belarusian activist has been jailed for five days after staging a demonstration aimed at protecting the Belarusian language.

Minsk-based sculptor Henik Loyka was arrested on February 22 after he unfolded a sign saying, "Congratulations on International Mother Language Day! Lyceum No. 4 used to be a Belarusian School."

Loyka told journalists after his protest in front of the Minsk school that the "Russification of Belarusian schools in our country is under way and we have to stop it."

Loyka was charged with holding an unapproved public protest and sentenced the same day. The judge rejected Loyka's demand to hold the hearing in Belarusian, and the trial proceeded in Russian.

Both are designated as official languages in the Belarusian Constitution, but the Russian language predominates in the country.
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