The Belarusian regime continues its unbridled repression of the opposition. The former main rival of Alexander Lukashenko in the presidential election, Viktor Babaryko, was sentenced, Tuesday, July 6, to fourteen years in prison for corruption. Considered a political prisoner by human rights defenders, this 57-year-old former banker was arrested shortly before the election on August 9, 2020. He will have to serve his sentence “In a penal colony of reinforced security”, specified his support on his Twitter account.
Viktor Babaryko, who has always claimed his innocence, was also ordered to reimburse 46 million Belarusian rubles (15 million euros) in damages, a fine of 45,000 euros and ban from exercising managerial functions , according to the NGO Viasna. The prosecutor had requested fifteen years in prison, the maximum sentence.
“It is an insane sentence targeting an individual who had decided to go into politics and had become one of the leaders who woke the country from a long sleep”, reacted Svetlana Tsikhanovskaïa, figurehead of the opposition, in exile in Lithuania. The American embassy in Minsk denounced “Cruel deception” of Belarusian justice. According to the European Union, “This sentence is one of one hundred and twenty-five recent unfair and arbitrary verdicts handed down by Belarusian courts in politically motivated trials.” The EU demanded the release “Immediate and unconditional” Mr. Babaryko, as well as the 530 other political prisoners.
Unprecedented protest movement in Belarus
The conviction of Viktor Babaryko comes in a climate of all-out lawsuits against opponents, human rights defenders, NGOs and journalists. The authorities notably blocked the country’s main independent media, Tut.by, and arrested, at the end of May, an opposition journalist in exile, Roman Protassevich, by diverting to Minsk the airliner in which he was traveling.
The fraudulent re-election of Alexander Lukashenko sparked an unprecedented protest movement in Belarus. For months, tens of thousands of people demonstrated peacefully, before facing violent repression. The European Union and the United States then took new sanctions, economic and individual, targeting high Belarusian officials and businessmen, as well as the key sectors of potash, oil and tobacco.
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