Russia slams Belarus human rights record after protesters sent down

Russia has criticized Belarus over its human rights record, following the long sentences handed down last week to protesters accused of involvement in the riots following the elections in Minsk in December.

“These verdicts raise questions,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Monday. “We are calling on the Belarusian side to show greater responsibility toward the observance of its international obligations on human rights and freedoms,” he said.

Several dozen people, including two Russian nationals, have been convicted over the “December riots” in Minsk.

In the latest case, on Saturday a Belarusian court sentenced former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov to five years in prison for organizing riots.

Sannikov, a former deputy foreign minister and leader of Belarus’ Christian Democratic Party, ran against “Europe’s last dictator,” Alexander Lukashenko, and was one of seven candidates detained after the December 19 polls, described by international observers as flawed.

Sannikov’s wife Irina Khalip, a journalist for Belarusian Novaya Gazeta, was also detained but then released pending trial. She is also charged with organizing riots.

The United States and the European Parliament have condemned the verdict and demanded the immediate release of the jailed opposition activists.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States is considering new sanctions against Belarus.

The elections in Belarus saw incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for more than 15 years, win a fourth term in office with almost 80 percent of the vote. More than 600 people were detained during large-scale protests that broke out in Minsk.

MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti) 

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