MINSK, July 25 (RIA Novosti) – A Belarusian court on Thursday revoked a two-year suspended sentence given to ex-presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev.
Neklyaev, who was sentenced in May 2011 over the protests that followed the December 2010 presidential election, arrived in court Thursday following a summons, only to be handed a copy of a court ruling saying that a hearing had taken place without his presence and that his sentence had been revoked.
The court stated that the decision was made on the basis of Neklyaev’s good character reference and his age. Neklyaev, whose name can also be transliterated as Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, turned 67 earlier this month.
He continued to protest his innocence following the news. “I have not committed any crimes, I have not broken the law,” he said.
At least five of the nine losing candidates in the presidential elections were brought to trial and convicted following a brutal crackdown on rallies against the result of the vote, which recorded President Alexander Lukashenko as winning by a landslide.
Last week, a court in Minsk lifted restrictions imposed on Belarusian journalist Irina Khalip, who was given a two-year suspended sentence in 2011.
Some experts have linked the court rulings to an improvement in relations between Belarus and the European Union, which regards the prosecution of opposition leaders and journalists as political reprisals and has slapped sanctions on the former Soviet state.
On Friday the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatović, welcomed the court’s decision on Khalip, adding that during her recent visit to Minsk the authorities had expressed readiness to “intensify dialogue and cooperation with her office on much needed improvement of the media freedom situation.”