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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarussian Activist Heading to Prison

MINSK -- A court on Wednesday sentenced an activist opposed to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko to 18 months on charges of joining an unregistered group, a verdict denounced as "pointless" by Belarus' most prominent opposition figure.

Dmitry Dashkevich, 25, a leader of the Young Front group, was sentenced under tough provisions adopted by the parliament in the run-up to Lukashenko's contested re-election.

"This sentence is pointless and harsh," Alexander Milinkevich, one of two opposition candidates to challenge the president's re-election in March, said outside the courthouse. "The authorities are afraid of young people, especially when they become organized. They are trying to intimidate people, to stop them from meeting and to persuade them to stay at home."

Milinkevich was one of several dozen activists who had gathered outside the court during three days of closed-door sittings. Police detained several protesters on Tuesday.