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In Ecuador, dissident fights extradition

world Updated: Aug 22, 2012 01:29 IST

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Less than a year ago, an Ecuadorean judge denied a request to extradite Aliaksandr Barankov to Belarus, the former Soviet bloc nation whose president has been nicknamed "Europe's last dictator".

But now, the former financial crimes investigator is in imminent danger of losing his political refugee status and being sent home, where he says he could be killed because he unearthed corruption at the highest levels of government.

Barankov's fate could be decided as early as Tuesday, less than a week after Ecuador granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, painting itself a proud haven for the politically persecuted.

The Belarusian's case indicates that hospitality may be limited by geopolitics.

Prosecutors in Belarus accuse the 30-year-old Barankov of fraud and extortion.

He calls the charges bogus, retribution for his having exposed a petroleum-smuggling ring involving senior officials of President Alexander Lukashenko's government, including relatives of the leader.

Barankov is backed by rights activists at home, where Lukashenko has ruled for 18 years by fixing elections.