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Belarusian Activist Tried Over Violence At 'Parasite Tax' Protest

Svyataslau Baranovich in a Minsk court on February 15

A Belarusian activist who took part in rallies against a law obliging the unemployed to pay taxes on "social parasites" is on trial in Minsk on a charge of attacking a police officer.

Svyataslau Baranovich pleaded guilty as his trial began on February 16, but said that the police officer he hit at a rally in March 2017 was not in uniform.

Baranovich also said that several people in civilian clothes attacked masked activists who chanted anarchist slogans, and that he just wanted to help the demonstrators as he did not know that their assailants were police officers.

Baranovich could be sentenced to six years in prison.

After the 2015 law establishing a "parasite tax" sparked protests in Minsk and other cities in 2016 and 2017, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka announced that collection of the tax would be suspended until 2018.

On January 25 of this year, however, Lukashenka signed a decree canceling the law.

The law echoed Soviet-era legislation under which unemployed citizens could face criminal prosecution.