Polish newspaper's reporter held in Belarus

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 21, 2012 2:49 PM
KIEV (Reuters) - The Belarus correspondent of a Polish newspaper was detained by police on Thursday less than a year after serving jail time for slandering Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the Union of Poles of Belarus said.Andrzej Poczobut, who works for Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza and is a prominent Polish-Belarusian minority activist, spent three months in jail last year before getting a three-year sentence which was suspended."(Police) have detained him, searched his apartment and said a criminal case had been launched against him for offences similar to the previous ones," said Anzelika Orechwo, head of the Union of Poles of Belarus.Police in Grodno, Poczobut's home town where he was being held, could not be reached for comment.Poczobut was tried for insulting Lukashenko in articles published in Gazeta Wyborcza and on Belarusian websites.The European Union has introduced sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes against Lukashenko and some of his officials after a crack-down on public protests against the president's re-election in December 2010.In power since 1994, Lukashenko tolerates little dissent and routinely locks up political opponents.However, in a move seen by analysts as an attempt to mend ties with Europe, in April Lukashenko released from prison opposition leader Andrei Sannikov, his main competitor in the last election.The former Soviet republic will hold a parliamentary election in September, although the opposition, long kept out of the legislature, has little hope of winning any seats.(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)