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Journalist Poczobut released in Belarus

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 02.07.2012 09:12
Belarusian-Polish journalist Andrzej Poczobut was released from custody in Grodno, west Belarus, on Saturday, but he must remain under house arrest until his trial for allegedly slandering the Belarusian president.

Andrzej Poczobut: photo - zpb.org.pl

Poczobut, who is a correspondent for Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza and a leading light in the Union of Poles in Belarus – an organisation that represents the 300,000 strong Polish minority in Belarus but is unrecognised by the Minsk authorities - was originally detained on 21 June.

Following his release over the weekend, Poczobut confirmed the charges against him in an interview with the Polish Press Agency.

“Three professors from the Belarusian State University have written that in 12 of my articles on the web pages of Belaruski Partizan and Karta '97 [opposition media outlets] there are insults and slanders against the president and that the Republic of Belarus has been discredited,” he said.

Poczobut said that the articles touched on various themes, including the plight of political prisoners in Belarus, the silent street protests held against the authorities in June and July 2011, and the April 2011 metro bombing in Minsk, together with the controversial death sentence meted out to the suspects in the crime.

The journalist's detention on 21 June marked the third time that Poczobut has been arrested by the Belarusian authorities.

Last week, the Belarusian ambassador in Warsaw was presented with an appeal for Poczobut's release by members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Poczobut told the Polish Press Agency that the maximum sentence that he could receive is 7 years and nine months. This includes the two years suspended sentence that he was given in July 2011, in relation to previous articles.

The journalist said that he is uncertain when the forthcoming trial will take place, as the authorities will now be studying further evidence from computers confiscated from his home in west Belarus. (nh)

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