Opposition trial is new low for Belarus: Britain

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Britain expressed its deep concern Saturday at the jailing of Belarus opposition leader Andrei Sannikov, saying it marked a "new low" for the rule of law in the country.

"I am deeply concerned to learn that Andrei Sannikov, who stood as a candidate in the presidential election last December, has been sentenced by a court in Belarus to a five-year prison term for the organisation of 'mass riots'," Europe minister David Lidington said.

"We have grave concerns about the treatment of Mr Sannikov while in custody including his access to medical treatment and legal services.

"The conduct of his trial has marked a new low for the rule of law in Belarus. Mr Sannikov is guilty of nothing more than the peaceful expression of his opinion about the results of December's flawed elections."

Lidington said his thoughts were with Sannikov's family and the families of his four co-defendants, who were handed sentences of up to three-and-a-half years in the same trial.

"We once more call on Belarus to cease its self-imposed isolation and to move into conformity with basic international standards of justice and human rights," he said.

Sannikov, 57, was arrested alongside other opposition figures after the December 19 elections which President Alexander Lukashenko swept with almost 80 percent of the vote, but which were slammed as flawed by observers.

The United States condemned his conviction as "politically motivated".

© 2011 AFP

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