Two Belarusians Who Brawled With Police At Rally Jailed

MALADECHNA, Belarus -- A court in Belarus has sentenced two men to lengthy prison terms for brawling with police during a rally supporting the registration of candidates to face off against Alyaksandr Lukashenka in last month's disputed presidential election.

A court in the city of Maladechna near Minsk on September 29 found Paval Pyaskou and Uladzislau Yeustsihneyeu guilty of violent disobedience against police.

Judge Viktoria Palyashchuk sentenced Pyaskou to three years and three months in prison and Yeustsihneyeu to three years in prison after finding them guilty.

The charges against the two men stemmed from their brawl with police on June 19 in Maladechna during a mass rally by protesters who demanded the registration of independent and opposition candidates in the August 9 presidential election.

During the rally's dispersal, the demonstrators -- including Pyaskou and Yeustsihneyeu -- managed to force police to release a detained protester.

A video of the brawl caused public outcry as it showed one riot police officer brandishing a pistol during the skirmish.

Protests against Lukashenka, who has ruled the country with an iron first for the past 26 years, have intensified after official results from the election gave him another five-year term with about 80 percent of the vote.

The demonstrators say the vote was rigged in Lukashenka's favor and are demanding that he step down and hold new elections.

Lukashenka had himself secretly sworn in on September 23, sparking outrage at home and abroad.

Western governments have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have called on him to peacefully transfer power.