Europe

Riot charges for opponents of Belarus leader Lukashenko

Belarus opposition activist Yan Logvinovich smokes a cigarette after being released from police custody, 29 December
Image caption Hundreds of opposition supporters were released on Wednesday

Four Belarus opposition figures have been charged with organising riots after a protest against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.

The four men, who are being held along with a number of campaigners and journalists, face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Three other opposition figures are also being investigated.

The US and EU condemned the post-election crackdown and said the ballot itself had been flawed.

Police made some 600 arrests when they broke up the protest in the capital, Minsk, on 19 December.

Hundreds of those detained, including 11 Russian citizens, were released on Wednesday.

The four men charged were named by lawyers as Vladimir Neklyaev, Andrei Sannikov, Nikolai Statkevich and Vitaly Rymashevsky.

Veteran leader

Mr Neklyaev has been receiving hospital treatment after being severely beaten up on election day, his lawyer said.

Also under investigation are Rygor Kostusev, Dmitry Uss and Alexei Mikhalevich.

All seven men stood as candidates against Mr Lukashenko, with none polling more than 3% of the vote, according to official results.

Mr Lukashenko was officially re-elected for a fourth term with nearly 80% of the vote.

Police dispersed at least 10,000 anti-Lukashenko demonstrators in Minsk on 19 December, officials said.

Some demonstrators tried to storm a government building, but were pushed back by riot police. Dozens of people in the crowd were injured in clashes after being beaten with batons, according to eyewitnesses.

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