Seven Belarus Activists Sentenced To Jail Over Protests

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Protesters hold images of Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko (L), Belarus opposition activist Roman Protasevich (C), and Protasevich’s Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega (R) during a demonstration of Belarusians living in Poland and Poles supporting them in front of the European Commission office in Warsaw on May 24, 2021 Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP

 

Belarus on Tuesday sentenced seven activists, including senior opposition figure Pavel Severinets, to jail terms of four to seven years, a journalist reported from court.

In a trial held behind closed doors in a court in the eastern Mogilev region, the activists were found guilty of taking part in “mass unrest”, referring to the historic protests that erupted after a disputed presidential election last August.

The demonstrations gripped the country for months after Alexander Lukashenko, 66, claimed a landslide sixth presidential term in the vote the opposition and European leaders said was rigged.

Severinets, who co-chairs the unregistered Belarusian Christian Democracy party, was arrested in June last year after a picket in support of opposition presidential candidates.

The court found him guilty of “organising mass unrest” even though he has been in detention for the past 11 months and did not take part in the mass demonstrations.

The court took two days to consider the case.

The European Union and the United States have sanctioned Lukashenko and his allies with travel bans and asset freezes over the crackdown on protesters.

Thousands were arrested, with many reporting torture in custody. At least four people died during the demonstrations.

On Sunday, Belarus faced a global outcry after the government ordered the diversion of a European flight over Belarusian airspace and arrested a dissident who was on board.

Several EU-based carriers cut air links with Belarus while European leaders also warned of further sanctions on the ex-Soviet country.

Although the protests have since died down, activists and independent journalists continue receiving jail terms in the aftermath.

-AFP

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