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Trial Of Last Belarus Election Protester Postponed

Svyataslau Baranovich
MINSK -- The trial of the last person accused of taking part in "mass disorder" during the postelection protest staged in Minsk on December 19 has been suspended until next month, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The trial of Svyataslau Baranovich, 25, resumed in the city's Maskowski district court on September 28 after being postponed last month when police who were named as "victims" in the case did not come to court. Baranovich was released on his own recognizance.

Ten officers from the Minsk police department's special-task unit testified at the trial on September 28 as victims.

But Judge Alena Rudnitskaya said she suspended the trial until October 12 because she wanted to hear more victims testify who were not able to on September 28.

The judge agreed with Baranovich's lawyer, who insisted that the officers be called to the court.

Earlier, Baranovich acknowledged he had taken a baton away from a riot policeman after being hit by it in the head.

"I believe that anybody who gets a blow to the head will try to resist, lest he get another one, after which resistance might become unnecessary," Baranovich said. "I believe I have to move forward and strive to achieve change."

He said he used the baton to hit police shields several times but did not attack police.

Baranovich said he had come to the central Independence Square with peaceful intent and without conspiring with anyone, noting that he had not seen any people commit crimes or engage in wanton destruction, which is necessary for a crime to be classified as "mass disorder."

If found guilty, Baranovich could be sentenced to a jail term of between three and eight years.

Baranovich added that he had sustained an open wound to the head and also had repeatedly been beaten by police in the back during the incident.

Baranovich's attorney, Nasta Lojka, said this final trial, as opposed to those of dozens of other December 19 defendants, is signaling a softening on the government's part in that the defendant is free under his own recognizance instead of being held in detention.

Lojka added that the prosecutor is also asking alleged victims if they have any grievances against the defendant.

"This might be an indication that the verdict will not be too severe," Lojka said. "We're hoping there will be no incarceration or restriction of freedom but rather a fine or a suspended sentence."