Belarus army officer jailed for leaking letter on crackdown

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KYIV (Reuters) - The supreme court of Belarus sentenced an army officer to 18 years in prison for treason on Friday, after he leaked a letter from the interior minister that called for the army to help put down street protests.

Former captain Denis Urad sent a copy of the letter to opposition media in March. In it, Interior Minister Ivan Kubrakov demanded the defence minister involve the army in suppressing protests.

State news agency BelTA reported that Urad had been convicted of treason for releasing state secrets.

"Urad's action ... has caused significant harm to national interests," BelTA quoted state prosecutor Mikhail Kovalev as saying.

Belarusians protested for months last year after a presidential election that opponents said was rigged to keep veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko in power. Lukashenko has denied electoral fraud and police have cracked down on protests, detaining thousands.

The Belarus opposition said this week one of its jailed leaders, Maria Kolesnikova, could face 12 years imprisonment.

(Writing by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Peter Graff)