Belarusian Activist Who Slit His Own Throat In Court Gets Lengthy Prison Term


MINSK -- A Belarusian activist who slit his own throat during a court hearing in June has been sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison.

Stsyapan Latypau, 40, whom Belarusian rights organizations have recognized as a political prisoner, was found guilty by Minsk Soviet district court of organizing events that violate public order, resisting law enforcement, and committing fraud. Latypau was sentenced the same day.

Latypau rejected all charges.

Latypau was detained in mid-September last year as he tried to stop police and workmen from painting over a mural in a residential courtyard that showed off the opposition's red and white colors.

The courtyard had become known as Change Square, hosting nightly events drawing protesters angry at authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka's claim of victory in a disputed presidential election in August.

Latypau is one of tens of thousands of Belarusians to be detained for protesting the election results, which the West has refused to accept.

Lukashenka, in power since 1994, has tightened his grip on the country in recent months in a violent crackdown on dissent that has raised the ire of many Western nations.

Rights groups say there is considerable evidence of torture being used by authorities on detainees.

The West does not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader and has imposed several rounds of sanctions against his regime.