Journalist arrested by KGB may face 15-year jail sentence

Aliaksandr Alesin, a military affairs expert and journalist, is being kept in the predetention ctntre of the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB). He is charged with espionage and may be sentenced to up to 15 years of imprisonment.

The journalist was reportedly seized on November, 28 by KGB agents at a cafe in central Minsk, and since his disappearance he has been out of reach. The editor in chief of Belorusy i Rynok weekly, the daily for which Alesin has worked for nearly 20 years,said that the journalist had not come to the office since 28 November.

“They accuse father of having breakfast with a diplomat representing a Western country. Then some secret documents were found on this diplomat; according to the KGB, it was my father who handed them over to him,” Yahor Alesin, the journalist’s son, told Belsat TV.

A KGB representative contacted Alesin’s family and said he was officially charged with divulging state secrets to a foreign state, organisation, representative or espionage (Article 356, p.1). A diplomat whose name is not revealed may be also connected to this case.

Alesin’s lawyer has appealed for changing the level of restriction in connection with his ill health. The journalist has a heart problem.

Aliaksandr Alesin also contributes to BelaPAN news agency and and Nasha Niva websites, gives comments to and appears in Belsat TV programs. He is known for his professionalism and for work of high quality.

The journalist’s arrest coincides with charges against two Lithuanian citizens who are accused of spying for Belarus. A number of Belarusian media raise the possibility that Belarus authorities may be using Alesin as a means of reprisal.

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