Chief editor of Belarus news outlet charged in tax case, colleagues say

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KYIV (Reuters) - One of Belarus's few independent news sites, TUT.BY, said on Monday its editor-in-chief Marina Zolotova had been charged in a tax evasion case that it said was fabricated as part of a crackdown on media.

Zolotova could face 3-7 years in prison if found guilty after the closed-door hearing, TUT.BY said.

The Belarusian authorities have not confirmed the charges and a spokesman for the state's Investigative Committee did not respond to a request for comment. The court in Minsk where the hearing took place could not be reached for comment.

Zolotova has been "accused of complicity in tax evasion on an especially large scale", her outlet said.

The authorities have arrested 15 employees at TUT.BY as part of a crackdown following mass protests against veteran President Alexander Lukashenko that erupted last year after a disputed election. TUT.BY was one of the most widely read news sites in Belarus during the protests.

Lukashenko's government has stripped many news organisations of their accreditation. Opposition-leaning journalists say they have faced raids, arrest, imprisonment or been forced to relocate abroad.

The most striking example was the arrest of Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old blogger, who was taken into custody after the Belarusian authorities grounded a Ryanair plane travelling from Greece to Lithuania on May 23.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Peter Graff)