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Belarusian Lawyers Disbarred For Working With Opposition

MINSK -- The Belarusian Justice Ministry said that four lawyers involved in defending opposition activists have been stripped of their licenses to practice law, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The ministry said on its website that attorneys Uladzimer Toustsik and Tamara Harayeva had been disbarred. The two had recently represented journalist Iryna Khalip, wife of the jailed former opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau.

Khalip was jailed for several weeks and is now under house arrest.

The Justice Ministry's website says Toustsik and Harayeva had their licenses revoked for their "refusal to represent Khalip."

But Khalip's father, Uladzimer Khalip, told RFE/RL on February 4 that her daughter's lawyers suddenly resigned as her attorney after Minsk authorities warned them they could lose their licenses if they continued to represent Khalip.

Uladzimer Khalip said authorities are trying to force his daughter to accept a state-appointed lawyer who would be under their control.

The ministry also annulled the licenses of lawyers Tatsyana Aheyeva and her son Aleh Aheyev for "providing false information when preparing agreements on judicial assistance."

Aheyev is the lawyer of former opposition presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich, who is currently in jail.

Khalip and Mikhalevich, along with dozens of other opposition activists and their supporters, have been charged with organizing and/or participating in mass unrest on December 19, when thousands of people protested the results of the presidential election that named incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the runaway winner.

Read more in Belarusian here