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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 00:27 GMT 01:27 UK
Belarus opposition leader jailed
Alexander Kozulin. File photo
Mr Kozulin accused the judge of being "a hangman"
An opposition leader in Belarus has been jailed for his role in protests following the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in March.

Alexander Kozulin, one of two opposition candidates to run against Mr Lukashenko, was jailed for five and a half years at a court in Minsk.

He was convicted of hooliganism and incitement to mass disorder.

Western nations have imposed sanctions on Mr Lukashenko and his top officials, saying the election was fraudulent.

'Utter blasphemy'

Mr Kozulin, 51, had been arrested in April during a mass protest in Minsk.

Kozulin believes he was given five and a half years to keep him out of future elections
Igor Rynkevich,
defence lawyer

Thousands of people had taken to the streets to accuse Mr Lukashenko of vote-rigging.

But the demonstration ended in violence, with riot troops moving in to clear the crowd.

Mr Kozulin dismissed the verdict as unfair and described the judge as an executioner.

Mr Kozulin's wife promised an appeal but admitted she had little hope the sentence would be overturned.

"Five and a half years. Such a sentence is utter blasphemy," Irina Kozulina said.

Mr Kozulin's 86-year-old mother collapsed outside court.

In the run-up to the election, Mr Kozulin, who was a former university rector, was an outspoken critic of Mr Lukashenko.

Mr Kozulin accused the president of corruption and of having an illegitimate child.

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