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Tougher Belarus Penalties

MINSK -- Belarus' parliament overwhelmingly gave preliminary approval Friday to tough new penalties that would make anti-government actions punishable with jail terms of two years or more.

Under the measures, those who finance or direct mass disorder could be jailed for up to three years, while media calls for the seizure of government buildings or a forceful constitutional change could be punished by five years in jail and those discrediting Belarus' international reputation could get two years.

"This is the final preparation for the presidential elections," opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich said. President Alexander "Lukashenko understands that people are going to defend their rights in the streets, and he is ready to put them in jail," he said.

(The Moscow Times 28.xi.05)

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