Top Belarus basketball player jailed for 15 days over protests

Minsk (AFP) –


Belarus's top woman basketball player Yelena Leuchanka was detained on Wednesday at an airport and jailed for 15 days over protests against President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election, a rights group said.

Leuchanka, a two-time Olympian, was detained at Minsk Airport as she planned to leave the country to receive treatment abroad, Viasna human rights group said.

The 37-year-old is a centre of the Belarus women's national basketball team and former player at several WNBA clubs in the United States.

Viasna said Leuchanka had taken part in opposition protests against Lukashenko.

She was also among a number of prominent Belarusian athletes who signed a petition demanding an end to violence and new elections.

Protesters have taken to the streets of Belarusian cities since Lukashenko claimed a sixth term with 80 percent of the vote in the August 9 election.

Over the past month, riot police have detained thousands of protesters some of whom have reported torture and abuse in custody, prompting international condemnation and proposed EU sanctions.

Several people have died in the crackdown.

Top Lukashenko critics have been jailed or forced into exile.

Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich has left the country for treatment in Germany, her friend told AFP on Monday, after the Nobel Literature Prize winner faced official pressure for supporting the opposition.