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Belarus jails border guard over ‘teddy bear invasion’

First jailing in connection with stunt by a group of Swedish activists

Gulf News

Minsk: Belarus has convicted and jailed for two years a border guard for failing to report that a foreign plane full of teddy bears had crossed into national airspace from Lithuania last July, the Belarus Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

The decision by a military tribunal is the first jailing in connection with the stunt by a group of Swedish activists who flew illegally into Belarussian territory to release hundreds of teddy bears carrying protest signs in support of freedom of speech.

A border guard who was on duty on July 2, 2012 received his conviction on January 4 in a closed trial for not reporting the teddy-bear fly-by, the spokeswoman of the Supreme Court of Belarus Maria Lapo said.

He was found guilty of violating border service rules, she said.

“This person did not appeal the decision and has already been sent to the colony to serve his sentence,” she said.

The activists from a Swedish advertising agency who crossed into Belarus in a small plane flew over the town of Ivanets and then onwards to the outskirts of Minsk, slowly releasing their teddy bear cargo. They then turned around and left the same way they entered the country.

Previously the stunt led strongman President Alexander Lukashenko to fire his top border control official, air force commander, and foreign minister.

It also sparked a diplomatic row between Minsk and Stockholm, with Belarus expelling all of Sweden’s diplomats from the country.

Belarussian police also briefly jailed a Belarus blogger who posted the Swedish public relation firm’s pictures of the alleged drop on his blog, but later released him.