Belarus court jails independent journalist for four years

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A court in Minsk on Tuesday sentenced an independent journalist to four years in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer.

Dzmitry Halko, 38, was detained on April 22 during a visit to his native Belarus from neighboring Ukraine where he had lived since last year.

Late last year, authorities accused him of attacking a policeman in the Belarus capital Minsk when police came to the door of his flat neighbours complained about loud music.

Halko left Belarus following the incident but decided to return to visit his son in April, when he was detained at the border with Ukraine.

He denies assaulting the policeman and calls the case politically motivated.

Halko, 38, has freelanced for various media including opposition website Belarussky Partizan and several Ukrainian independent websites.

He also worked as a fixer for The Times and regularly covered the frontline in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Belarus is ranked 155th out of 180 in this year’s Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index.

President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the ex-Soviet country, which shares borders with three EU member states, with an iron fist since 1994.

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