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    Belarus opposition leader Kozulin charged, faces 5-yr jail term

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    Alexander Kozulin currently is in custody at a pre-trial detention facility in the town of Zhodino, about 20 miles from Minsk.

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    MINSK, March 31 (RIA Novosti) - An opposition leader in Belarus could face five years in prison after the authorities filed charges against him following his arrest last weekend in a rally in the country's capital, the leader's wife said Friday.

    Irina Kozulina said Social Democratic Party leader Alexander Kozulin, one of three defeated candidates in the March 19 elections, had been charged with serious public order offenses and hooliganism.

    "A gross provocation and falsification of the facts is obvious, Kozulina said her husband had written on the police interrogation record. The political subtext of this case - eliminating a political rival - is self-evident."

    The opposition leader's wife said she would soon travel to Russia to present documents proving her husband's innocence to the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, the State Duma.

    "I am seeking support [from the Duma] and believe that certain [Russia's] political forces can influence the Belarusian leader to declare my husband not guilty," she said.

    Alexander Kozulin currently is in custody at a pre-trial detention facility in the town of Zhodino, about 20 miles from Minsk. His wife said he had been seriously injured while being transferred to the facility.

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who Washington has dubbed "Europe's last dictator", was reelected to a third term in the March 19 election with a massive 83% of the vote. Although he is known to have support in his homeland for maintaining relative stability in the country in comparison with some other former Soviet republics, his human rights record has been fiercely criticized by international organizations.

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