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Belarusian Activist Jailed 3 1/2 Years For Election Protest

Mikita Likhavid in a guarded cage during a court hearing in Minsk on March 22
Mikita Likhavid in a guarded cage during a court hearing in Minsk on March 22
MINSK -- A Belarusian political activist has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a maximum security prison after being found guilty of taking part in "mass unrest" in December, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Judge Natalya Pykina announced the sentence for Mikita Likhavid after a trial in Minsk's Partizan District Court.

Likhavid, a member of the opposition Za Svabodu (For Liberty) movement, was sentenced for participating in a rally with thousands of opposition protesters on December 19 following that day's presidential election.

Likhavid, 20, is the eighth activist tried for organizing and/or participation in the unsanctioned mass protest in Minsk.

Several policemen who were reported to have been hurt during the protest attended the trial but were unable to identify Likhavid as having injured them.

The demonstrators were challenging official results of the election that declared incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka the winner.

Five of the activists were given various jail terms, one was sentenced to "limited freedom," and two Russian citizens were fined.

Likhavid's mother, Alena Likhavid, told journalists after the verdict was read that she will appeal the case.

"If my son were a Russian citizen he would only have been fined, but since he is a Belarusian there is no one to protect him," she said. "On behalf of my son, on behalf of other political prisoners, I urge European [governments] to introduce economic sanctions [against Belarus]. Otherwise, [the repression] will never stop."

She ended her statement by saying, "Long live Belarus!"

In a statement, the campaign group Amnesty International called on Belarus to release Likhavid and others jailed over the election protests, saying they were prisoners of conscience.

Some 40 people have been charged with participation in the unsanctioned protest. Five of them were presidential candidates in the election.

Read more in Belarusian here