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Belarus22 February 2008

Weekly paper editor freed

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release from prison of the former editor of the weekly paper Zhoda, Alyaksandr Zdvizhkou, after the Belarusian supreme court today cut his three-year prison sentence to three months. He had been detained since last 18 November. The organisation said both sentences and his imprisonment were “totally unjust.”

A court in Minsk gave him the three-year sentence on 18 January to be served in a harsh prison for incitement to racial and religious hatred by reprinting cartoons of the prophet Mohamed in the 18-26 January 2006 issue of the paper. The case was brought by the secret police in February after a complaint by the national Association of Muslims and the trial was behind closed doors. The supreme court ordered the paper to be shut down the following month.

The supreme court’s latest decision was officially because Zdvizhkou has eye problems and needs to look after his old mother. He had been transferred to a prison hospital earlier this week.

He had gone to live abroad in 2006 and was arrested last November when he returned to visit his father’s grave in Barysau, near Minsk. He said the charges against him were “politically motivated.” Zhoda supported opposition candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin in the March 2006 presidential elections.




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