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    Lukashenko grants pardon to participants in Dec. protests

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    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has granted pardons to nine people convicted of taking part in mass anti-government protests last December, the presidential press service said in a statement on Thursday.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has granted pardons to nine people convicted of taking part in mass anti-government protests last December, the presidential press service said in a statement on Thursday.

    "Alexander Lukashenko has pardoned from prison terms nine participants of mass disturbances on Independence Square on December 19, 2010," the statement said.

    The list of pardoned people includes six former presidential candidates - Nikolai Statkevich, Dmitry Uss, Andrei Sannikov, Vladimir Neklyayev, Vitaly Rymashevsky and Ales Mikhalevich. They were all sentenced to prison terms between two and five and a half years.

    Police beat and arrested hundreds of demonstrators who attempted to storm the government headquarters in protest against Lukashenko's re-election.

    The United States and European Union condemned the crackdown and imposed sanctions against Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994.

    In March, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing hundreds of cases of torture and inhumane treatment of jailed protesters.

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