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Trial of Polish-Belarusian Journalist Postponed

Aksana, wife of Andrzej Poczobut, comforts her daughter Yana as they stand in front of the court building where Paczobut is on trial in Hrodna.
HRODNA, Belarus -- The trial of Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut on charges of insulting Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka resumed in the western Belarusian city of Hrodna on June 17 but was postponed until June 23, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Poczobut, the Belarus correspondent for the Polish daily "Gazeta Wyborcza," went on trial on June 14. He was detained in April and charged with insulting the "personal dignity and honor" of the president in newspaper articles and online comments that he had written.

Poczobut's lawyer, Andrey Birylau, told journalists on June 17 that the trial was adjourned in order to give Poczobut's lawyers time to familiarize themselves with the newly amended charges. Birylau did not explain how the charges have been amended.

Poczobut is active in Belarus's Polish community and is a leading member of the embattled Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), a Polish cultural organization.

He could face up to two years in jail if convicted of insulting the president or up to four years in prison if convicted of libel that "damages the personal honor and dignity of the president."

Poczobut's trial is being held behind closed doors. Dozens of his supporters, colleagues, and relatives gathered in front of Hrodna's Lenin District Court on June 17.

The authorities' eviction of the ZPB from its office buildings near Minsk last year and the detention by police of its activists strained ties between Belarus and the European Union, as well as between Minsk and Warsaw.

The ZPB has been trying for five years to regain official registration in Belarus.

In 2009, Belarusian officials registered the pro-government Union of Belarusian Poles, an alternative organization representing Poles in Belarus.

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

About 4 percent of Belarus's 9.7 million people are ethnic Poles.

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