MINSK, Belarus (AP) — A journalist for a leading Polish newspaper was arrested in authoritarian Belarus and faces up to five years in jail for criticizing the ex-Soviet nation's dictatorial president, his wife said Friday.
Last year, Andrzej Poczobut, an ethnic Pole who writes for the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, was given a suspended three-year sentence on charges of libel and insulting President Alexander Lukashenko in his articles. His case had drawn attention to the repressive regime of Alexander Lukashenko, especially from Poland, since Belarus has a large ethnic Polish community.
Poland's Foreign Ministry summoned the Belarusian ambassador on Friday afternoon and presented him with a note of protest over Poczobut's arrest.
Poczobut's wife, Oksana, said he was arrested late Thursday in the western city of Hrodno near the Polish border.
"They threatened, insulted me," she told The Associated Press. "Said they would not leave him alone" until Poczobut stops criticizing Lukashenko.
Belarusian authorities were not available for comment.
Lukashenko has ruled the nation of 10 million for nearly 18 years, earning the nickname in the West of "Europe's last dictator."
The Polish Foreign Ministry noted that Poczobut is an independent journalist as well as the head of a council representing the Polish minority in Belarus, and said his arrest could lead to tighter sanctions against Belarus.