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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

the belarusian KGB

back in the u-s-, back in the u-s-s-r!

as usual, more great news from the former soviet union. the KGB in Belarus has arrested Illya Mafter, an employee of George Soros' Open Society Institute.
Belarusian KGB chief Leonid Yerin said late Monday that Mafter was arrested on fraud charges after being suspected of having "misappropriated some of the funds entrusted to him," the Interfax news agency said. "We are perplexed by the arrest of Ilya Mafter, who is working on a project benefiting Belarus and its people," said Aryeh Neier, the Open Society Institutute's president. "We urge the Belarusian authorities to release him without delay. The OSI is extremely concerned about his health and welfare."

The Belarus branch of the Soros Foundation closed in 1997, citing government harassment including the expulsion of its director and the seizure of its assets. OSI said Mafter was working on a project in collaboration with the Belarusian Ministry of Education to help expand Internet service. OSI's program in Belarus aims to provide Internet service to a broad range of organizations in the former Soviet republic of 10 million. UNDP administers the program. A report issued by the KGB said that the U.S. citizen was accused of involvement in fraud against Belarus' VELCOM cell phone provider, Interfax reported.

The news agency later quoted unidentified KGB sources as saying that Mafter is accused of inflicting $100,000 worth of damage to Belarus' communications providers, including the Beltelecom company, by organizing "illegal communications services" using the Internet. Mafter is suspected of "causing damage to property" and "working as an entrepreneur without registration or permission," Interfax quoted the KGB sources as saying....

Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since his first election in 1994, stifling the opposition and free media, and putting his nation on an isolated, anti-Western path. He pushed through a constitutional referendum Sunday that scrapped presidential term limits, allowing him to run again in 2006.