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Belarusian Opposition Leader Holds Minsk Rally

Belarusian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich has held an unauthorized rally in central Minsk.

Statkevich, who was released from prison last month after being pardoned by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, held the demonstration despite being warned by police to end it.

Although plainsclothes police monitored the rally, security forces did not interrupt the protest.

A few hundred people came to the rally, where Statkevich urged people to ignore the October 11 presidential election.

He said the most important thing for the opposition is to be able to ensure that fair elections will be held in Belarus.

Statkevich said it is important for the opposition to unite in order to realistically oppose Lukashenka.

Opposition figures Anatol Lebedko and Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu were among those who attended the rally and spoke via loudspeaker to supporters.

Statkevich was a candidate in the 2010 presidential election but was arrested immediately afterwards and later convicted of "organizing mass disturbances."

Several other presidential candidates were also arrested and later sentenced to prison.

Statkevich was released with five other prisoners -- all six of whom were considered political prisoners by human rights groups -- on August 22.

Their release was seen as a concession by Lukashenka to the EU for improving ties ahead of the upcoming presidential election.

With reporting by TASS
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