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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarussian Opposition Leader Held

MINSK -- Belarussian authorities have detained a prominent opposition leader accused of giving bribes and conducting criminal activity, police officials said Tuesday, in the fourth arrest of an opposition activist in just over a year.

Sergei Skrebets, a former lawmaker and the head of the opposition group Respublika, was detained Sunday morning on charges of giving bribes and "preparing a crime," said Artyom Polonsky, a police spokesman.

Polonsky said Skrebets was accused of taking part in paying a $30,000 bribe to authorities in the Brest region, about 300 kilometers west of the capital, Minsk, in an attempt to win the acquittal of a young man convicted for banditry. Skrebets, 41, faces 10 years in prison.

Rights groups and critics said Skrebets' detention was part of an attempt by President Alexander Lukashenko to quash all opposition. "Evidently, this is the authorities' revenge for Skrebets' relentless political activity," said Tatyana Protko, head of the Belarussian Helsinki Committee, a leading human rights group.

Skrebets has actively opposed Lukashenko's rule. Last year, he participated in a hunger strike that lasted more than two weeks, demanding amendments to election legislation.

In April, authorities said they had detained a man who had smuggled $200,000 from neighboring Lithuania intended for Skrebets -- an incident Skrebets dismissed as a provocation.

Three other opposition leaders have been jailed over the past 13 months on what critics said were trumped-up charges.