[JURIST Europe] Belarus authorities have sentenced Alexander Milinkevich [official website; Wikipedia profile] and three other opposition leaders to a fifteen-day jail term for attending an illegal demonstration after arresting them [JURIST report] Thursday. At the peaceful rally in Minsk, the capital, Milinkevich called on his supporters to work for a constitutional overthrow of President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile]. About 6,000 people attended the rally, traditionally the biggest one of the year in Belarus [JURIST news archive], held on the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster [backgrounder]. The arrests brought outrage from leaders worldwide; US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called them reprehensible, while the spokeswoman for the European Commission [official website] raised the prospect of new sanctions. The EU has already imposed a travel ban [JURIST report] on Lukashenko and 30 others in his government. The head of the OSCE, of which Belarus is a member, called for the immediate release of those arrested [press release].
Milinkevich came a distant second to Lukashenko in March elections [JURIST report] that were condemned as fraudulent by election observers and Western governments. Since the election, over 1,000 opposition members have been arrested, generally for attending unauthorized demonstrations. AFP has more.
Tatyana Margolin is an Associate Editor for JURIST Europe, reporting European legal news from a European perspective. She is based in the UK.