Jailed Belarusian Opposition Politician Charged With Taking Part In Mass Disorder

MINSK -- Belarusian opposition member Paval Sevyarynets, who has been in custody since early June, has been charged with taking part in mass disorder.

The politician's wife, Volha Sevyarynets, wrote on Facebook late on August 31 that a court in Minsk also extended her husband's pretrial detention by two months.

"I admire the courage, wisdom, and endurance of the Belarusian people. I thank the Lord that the church came out to defend truth and justice. I believe that Belarus will be free," Volha Sevyarynets wrote.

Sevyarynets, a co-chairman of the non-registered opposition Belarusian Christian Democratic Party, is one of dozens of activists and politicians who were detained in Minsk and several other cities across Belarus during the June 8 rallies at which hundreds of demonstrators were collecting signatures necessary to register presidential candidates other than the authoritarian incumbent, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, for an August 9 election.

His jail term has been prolonged several times since his initial arrest.

If convicted, Sevyarynets may face up to eight years in prison.

Lukashenka, who has ruled the country since 1994, was declared the winner in the election, which was widely viewed as rigged in his favor.

Thousands of citizens have taken to the streets over the past three weeks to protest the results, saying Lukashenka's challenger, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, actually won the election.

Lukashenka has shown no sign of giving in to the protesters, who are demanding his resignation, the release of all political prisoners, and free and fair elections.