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article imageBelarusian poet gets 10 days in jail for calling protest

By AFP     Nov 1, 2017 in World

A Belarusian court on Wednesday sentenced opposition politician and poet Vladimir Nekliayev to 10 days in prison for urging supporters to protest against the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko.

A court in the capital Minsk found Nekliayev, a 71-year-old former presidential candidate, guilty of "calling for a mass protest to be organised and held in violation of regulations."

On October 16, Nekliayev told the Warsaw-based Belarusian opposition television channel Belsat that "if you have the will to defend your rights, you should go out (on the street) and defend them."

Opposition supporters held a peaceful protest in Minsk on October 21 during which no people were detained.

Nekliayev said in court that he needed medical treatment and "that if anything happens to me, this will be premeditated murder."

The Belarusian PEN Centre, a group of writers that Nekliayev once chaired, issued a statement calling his arrest "unfounded" and said it would call on international organisations to pressure authorities for his release.

Another leading opposition politician, Mikola Statkevich, was sentenced to five days in prison on Monday for taking part in an unsanctioned protest in September against the "Zapad 2017" joint Russian and Belarusian military drills.

Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet state with an iron fist since 1994.

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