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    Minsk protesters pardoned by Lukashenko freed, presidential candidates still jailed

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    All nine participants of the December 19 protests in Minsk whom Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko recently pardoned, have been released from prison, Belarusian rights center Vesna said on Monday.

    All nine participants of the December 19 protests in Minsk whom Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko recently pardoned, have been released from prison, Belarusian rights center Vesna said on Monday.

    The list of paroled protesters does not include six former presidential candidates; they will continue serving their terms varying from two to five and half years in Belarusian colonies. One other presidential candidate, Ales Mihalevich, secretly left Belarus and received political asylum in the Czech Republic.

    "Alexander Lukashenko has pardoned from prison terms nine participants of mass disturbances on Independence Square on December 19, 2010," his press service said in a statement issued on August 11.

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

    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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