Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Show the Tapes and Get Shoved in Jail

And so it goes in the paranoid state of dictator Alexander Lukashenka's Belarus... A couple of days ago Syarhey Lyashkevich was sentenced to jail for "training opposition activists to stage riots." Lyashkevich was targeted by the police because he is a political dissident - peaceful and properly conducted, yes, but one who doesn't believe Lukashenka's corrupt and totalitarian regime is best for Belarus. That alone is more than enough to get you in trouble there but Lyashkevich dared to openly differ with the government by heading up a local election headquarters of opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich during the presidential election campaign earlier this year. That really stirred the political police to action.

So how was the trial conducted? Well, the judge declared that Lyashkevich had instructed oppositionists in how to stage riots by showing them videotapes of street demonstrations. However, as the defense demonstrated, if simply showing the videotapes constituted a crime, then arrests were necessary for officials of the state-run media because all of the tapes had originally been shown (and repeatedly) on Belarusian television!

But, of course, standing up for common sense, fairness and freedom remain political crimes in Belarus and Lyashkevich was found guilty. Sentence: 5 months in prison.