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Polish-Belarusian Journalist Kept In Detention In Belarus

Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut
Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut
HRODNA, Belarus -- Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut has had his request to be released on bail rejected by officials in the western Belarusian city of Hrodna, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Poczobut, who is active in Belarus's ethnic Polish community, is a correspondent in Belarus for the Polish daily "Gazeta Wyborcza." He was detained on April 6 and charged with "insulting the personal dignity and honor of the president" in his newspaper articles and online comments.

Poczobut's lawyer, Alyaksandr Birylau, told RFE/RL that he visited Poczobut in a pretrial detention center in Hrodna on May 6. He said Poczobut's morale is high and he receives many letters from friends and supporters every day.

Birylau added that the investigator in Poczobut's case, Arseni Nikolski, has refused to grant bail to Poczobut while the investigation is being conducted.

Poczobut, who is a leading member of the embattled Polish cultural organization the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), could face up to two years in jail if found guilty.

Minsk's treatment of the group strained ties between Belarus and the European Union last year, particularly after the ZPB was evicted from its office buildings near Minsk and police detained a number of its activists.

The ZPB has been trying for five years to regain official registration in Belarus. In 2009, Belarusian officials registered the Union of Belarusian Poles, an alternative organization representing ethnic Poles in Belarus that has friendly relations with the official Minsk administration.

The Polish government regards the ZPB as the only legal representative of the Polish minority in Belarus.

Ethnic Poles comprise around 4 percent of Belarus's 9.7 million population.

Read more in Belarusian here