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Belarus releases newspaper editor jailed for reprinting Muhammad cartoons

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Belarus Friday ordered a former newspaper editor who had been had been sentenced [JURIST report] to three years in prison for reprinting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] to be released, his lawyer said. Alexander Sdvizhkov, former deputy editor of Belarus newspaper Zhoda, had been convicted of inciting religious hatred, but was released Friday after the court reduced his sentence to three months, which he has already served.

The move has been interpreted as an attempt to improve relations with the West. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] has recently sought to improve his country's ties with western nations, but the US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Belarus pending the release of all political prisoners. After Sdvizhkov's release, two other high-profile political prisoners remain in custody, including Alexander Kozulin [CFR profile and interview], who was sentenced [JURIST report] to prison for leading unauthorized protests after challenging Lukashenko for the presidency in 2006. AP has more.

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