Belarus professor jailed by regime

July 19, 2002

The arrest and imprisonment of Belarusian physics professor and pro-democracy activist Yury Khadyka has attracted protests from human rights activists worldwide.

Although only a ten-day prison term was involved, the circumstances surrounding the sentence are symptomatic of the situation faced by the struggling democratic opposition to the authoritarian regime of president Alexander Lukashenko.

Last March, Professor Khadyka, a vice-chairman of the pro-democracy Belarusian Popular Front, was arrested at a peaceful celebration to mark the anniversary of the 1918 declaration of Belarusian independence.

After appeals from his fellow democrats, human rights organisations and what remains of the independent press in Belarus, Professor Khadyka was released pending the court decision in April.

He was given the maximum sentence even though he had not helped organise the event and had not resisted arrest. He was not imprisoned immediately, and it seemed likely that the authorities would not force Professor Khadyka, an elderly man in poor health, to serve the sentence.

On July 5, three days before his sentence should have lapsed, Professor Khadyka was imprisoned.

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