The Minsk City Court on Friday upheld a suspended prison sentence that was imposed on former presidential candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyayew in connection with a post-election protest held in central Minsk on December 19, 2010.
The three-judge panel chaired by Syarhey Khrypach also turned down an appeal by Mr. Nyaklyayew's campaign manager, Andrey Dzmitryyew, against a similar sentence.
Speaking at the hearing, the 65-year-old Nyaklyayew said that he did not trust the court, noting that Belarusian judges were ready to obey any orders from Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime.
He complained that the panel had been given only four days to study his case and prepare for the hearing. "It is impossible to do so on a proper professional level, which means that the court has treated the case perfunctorily, without studying the materials of the case, without even reading them, as the court's decision has already been determined by the institutions that the court serves," Mr. Nyaklyayew said.
Referring to an attack that left him unconscious and landed him in hospital shortly before the protest, Mr. Nyaklyayew described it as a "state crime for which there is no statute of limitations and for which the guilty will be tried according to law."
Noting that the judges considering his appeal had an opportunity to escape future punishment for the government's brutal crackdown on political opponents, Mr. Nyaklyayew urged them to overturn his sentence.
On May 20, a judge of the Frunzenski District Court in Minsk gave a suspended two-year prison sentence with two years' probation to Mr. Nyaklyayew. Judge Zhanna Zhukowskaya found the politician guilty of the "organization and preparation of actions that are in gross violation of public order or active participation in them" in connection with the post-election protest that was largely peaceful.
Mr. Dzmitryyew was sentenced to a suspended two-year prison sentence in the same trial.