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Belarusian Union Leaders Sentenced To Four Years Of 'Restricted Freedom'

Belarusian union leaders Henadz Fyadynich (left) and union accountant Ihar Komlik in court in Minsk on August 24.

MINSK -- Two Belarusian independent trade union leaders involved in organizing street protests in 2017 have been sentenced to four years of "restricted freedom" in a high-profile trial in Minsk, while several of their supporters were detained near the court's building.

"Restricted freedom" is a suspended custodial sentence with parole-like restrictions.

The court on August 24 found union leader Henadz Fyadynich and union accountant Ihar Komlik guilty of tax evasion and also barred them from occupying managerial positions for five years.

The audience shouted "Shame!" after the ruling was pronounced.

Police detained several supporters of Fyadynich and Komlik, including opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich, who came to support the two union leaders.

Fyadynich and Komlik have called the charges politically motivated punishment for the union's role in organizing protests in February-March 2017 against legislation that would impose a tax on the unemployed. They say they will appeal the ruling.

Critics of authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has held power in Belarus since 1994, say his government routinely uses the justice system to suppress dissent.

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