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Belarusian Activist Prosecuted For Protest That Was Approved By Town

Belarusian opposition activist Yaraslau Bernikovich
Belarusian opposition activist Yaraslau Bernikovich
HLYBOKAYE, Belarus -- An opposition activist in eastern Belarus is being prosecuted over a protest that was approved by local authorities, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The town of Hlybokaye granted Yaraslau Bernikovich permission to hold a rally on March 19 in support of jailed opposition activists.

But Bernikovich said today he has been summoned to appear in court next month after the town's mayor, Aleh Morkhat, claimed he broke the law on mass gatherings.

Bernikovich told RFE/RL that two policemen visited him today and showed him a document signed by Morkhat in which the mayor claims the participants in the protest organized by Bernikovich used slogans that were not included in the application to hold the gathering.

Morkhat's statement also says the activists erected a tent in front of the House of Culture in Hlybokaye, which he says is against the law. The third charge by the mayor against Bernikovich is that the protest went 10 minutes longer than it was supposed to last.

Bernikovich told RFE/RL the police also showed him pictures taken during the gathering by Mikhail Charapkouski, an employee of the city council's ideology department.

Bernikovich said Charapkouski and the town administration's lawyer were at the gathering from the beginning to the end but did not raise any objections about it.

The police questioned Bernikovich and then ordered him to appear in the Hlybokaye district court on May 5.

Meanwhile in Minsk, the mother of jailed opposition activist Zmitser Dashkevich died on April 26 at the age of 54, RFE/RL reports.

Volha Dashkevich's cause of death was not made public, but she had reportedly suffered from depression since her son was arrested on December 18.

Dashkevich, 29, was sentenced last month to two years in jail for attacking two men in Minsk. His mother was unable to attend the trial. He and his supporters say the case against him was politically motivated.

Dashkevich is the leader of the opposition Malady Front (Young Front) movement. He served a jail term from 2006-08 for his civil activities on behalf of an unregistered organization.

It is not clear if the authorities will allow Dashkevich, who is being held at a Minsk detention center, to attend his mother's funeral.

His father, Vyachaslau, said he will ask Minsk authorities to allow his son to attend his mother's funeral later this week.

Read more in Belarusian here