Belorus historian files complaint to police

March 13, 1998

Belorussian historian Uladzimir Yukho, of the institute of history in Minsk, has filed a complaint against the city's police for mistreatment.

He was arrested late last month by riot police when he attempted to enter a court where two Belorusian teenagers were on trial for "hooliganism". He claimed that his hand had been crushed in a police car door and he was later beaten in the course of questioning.

Professor Yukho was among a number of people picked up near the court, including activists from the democratic opposition, human rights campaigners and a member of the former parliament.

The two defendants, Alaksiey Shydlouski, a student at the Belorussian State University in Minsk, and Vadzim Labkovich, a 16-year-old school student, were arrested last July allegedly for writing graffiti on walls near the presidential palace. The slogans included phrases such as "Belorus is the land of our fathers", "Belorus - a part of Europe" and "Long live Belorus".

The two were held in custody for more than six months, for most of the time out of contact with their families, even after their families had paid the cost of erasing the graffiti. They were brought to trial under a section of the criminal code normally reserved for serious acts of hooliganism and received 18-month jail sentences, suspended for two years in the case of the school student.

Mr Labkovich is unlikely to meet the requirement of " good behaviour" attached to his suspended sentence as he said immediately he did not intended to give up political activity. For, he said: "If we don't get involved in politics in this country, then they will simply lock everyone up."

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