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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Activist Detained and Then Released

MINSK -- A prominent opposition activist in Belarus was detained and then released Wednesday in what colleagues said was an attempt to disrupt a planned rally.

Vintsuk Vechorko, long prominent in campaigns against President Alexander Lukashenko, was picked up by police as he returned home Tuesday evening.

He was released nearly 24 hours later, but told to appear in court two days before the rally on charges of unruly behavior, specifically for swearing outside his apartment building.

A lawyer for Vechorko's Belarussian Popular Front said it had taken him hours to find out where his client was detained.

"They later escorted him out of a detention center and said he could go home," said Vladimir Labkovich. "According to the documents, he is to appear in court on March 23 on charges of swearing outside his home."

Another activist, Vyacheslav Sivchik, was also released.

The opposition, backed by the United States and the European Union, accuses Lukashenko of hounding opponents, closing down the independent press and rigging his re-election last year.

A March congress to draft strategy was postponed because of differences among opposition leaders on how to confront Lukashenko ahead of next year's parliamentary election.

But a March 25 rally honoring the shortlived Belarussian People's Republic, crushed by Bolshevik forces in 1918, is to proceed.