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Belarus opposition wants public trial of Lukashenko

Written by: Staff
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VILNIUS, Apr 14 (Reuters) Opponents of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko launched a campaign today for a symbolic trial of the leader, calling his 12-year rule a ''political Chernobyl.'' Opposition leader Anatoly Lebedko, campaigning in Lithuania for international support, urged international human rights organisations to back the idea of a public trial.

Lukashenko is criticised in the West for crushing dissent, silencing the media and for tough police action against the opposition.

The European Union imposed a visa ban on the president and his 30 top officials in protest at election fraud when he won a third term in March in a poll the EU said was rigged.

''The policies of Lukashenko's regime have long ago surpassed all limits of human tolerance,'' said an opposition declaration released at Lebedko's meeting with Lithuanian parliamentarians and students.

''Lukashenko and his entourage must face full responsibility for the crimes they have committed. We invite you of all to support our initiative to start a trial of Lukashenko's regime immediately,'' he added.

Lebedko said the opposition was seeking support from politicians who won prominence by overturning communist rule in Eastern Europe in the 1980s such as the Czech Republic's Vaclav Havel and Poland's Lech Walesa.

''It would be a legal trial that could be held in Vilnius, Prague or Warsaw to which we would invite influential people,'' he said. ''But we shouldn't only stress its legal aspect -- it also has moral, political and spiritual sides.'' ''We will collect hundreds of signatures of public figures and those of thousands of ordinary citizens. We will begin implementing it today.'' The opposition is also gearing up for a mass rally on April 26, the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the world's worst civil nuclear accident.

Radioactive clouds from Chernobyl in neighbouring Ukraine contaminated two thirds of Belarus, affecting tens of thousands.

''Belarus has two misfortunes: Lukashenko and Chernobyl. They are linked -- we can say there is a nuclear Chernobyl and a political Chernobyl,'' said Lebedko.

REUTERS CH BST2230

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