Opposition leader Alaksandar Milinkievič jailed in Belarus

Friday, April 28, 2006

Milinkievič at a meeting with Lech Kaczyński, president of Poland, March 2006

The leader of the main opposition party, Alaksandar Milinkievič, has been jailed for 15 days in Belarus for taking part in an 'unsanctioned rally'. The march, held in the centre of Minsk, marked the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Held every year, it is a traditional forum for expressing political opposition. At least 6,000 protesters took part, accompanied by riot police.

Demonstraters are said to have asked permission for the rally and to have received authorisation for having the protest on some sites. Protestors say that their protest was on the authorised sites and was not unlawful.

Conflicts between the opposition party and the government, led by Alexander Lukashenko, have been numerous since Lukashenko was re-elected as President on March 19, 2006. The opposition party has organised numerous demonstrations and rallies, and over 1,000 of their members being arrested.

Milinkievič has said that he has received "a political sentence". Other opposition leaders Alexander Bukhvostov and Sergei Kalyakin were also jailed on the same day.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has said the US "condemns this act" and called upon Belarus to act within accepted international principles on the treatment of political opposition. NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has also condemned the action.