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Two Years' Jail For Belarus 'Tattoo' Activist

Yury Rubtsou displays a tattoo on his chest saying "Lukashenka, get out!" during his trial in Pruzhany, Belarus.
Yury Rubtsou displays a tattoo on his chest saying "Lukashenka, get out!" during his trial in Pruzhany, Belarus.

PRUZHANY, Belarus -- A Belarusian rights activist who stripped off at his trial to show a message to the country's president -- a tattoo across his chest saying "Lukashenka, Get Out!"-- has been jailed for two years.

Yury Rubtsou revealed the tattoo on May 27 during his trial for violating the terms of an 18-month mandatory labor sentence. That punishment was imposed last year for contempt of court after Rubtsou got into trouble for wearing a T-shirt with the same inscription.

The court in the southwestern town of Pruzhany found Rubtsou guilty on May 28 and sentenced him to two years in jail.

During the hearing, Rubtsou took off his shirt in the courtroom while several of his supporters showed off T-shirts with the same slogan.

Rubtsou said he had refused to work at the state-run industrial facility where he was serving his labor sentence in protest at low salary levels in Belarus. The government says the average monthly salary is $600 but Rubtsou says that figure is inflated.

Rubtsou was on hunger strike for 50 days, demanding higher average monthly salaries for ordinary Belarusians and calling on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's government to release all political prisoners.

RFE/RL's correspondent, who attended the trial, reports that Rubtsou has dramatically lost weight.

In his last statement at the trial, Rubtsou said "I am being tried for my demand to give me a salary that was promised to all of us by Lukashenka in 2010, but the president failed to keep his promise."

Lukashenka has tolerated little dissent or political opposition in more than 20 years as president.

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