MOSCOW, Russia – A Belarusian court on Wednesday, December 22, sentenced four anti-government protesters to between 18 and 20 years in prison for terrorism and arms trafficking offences, the BelTa news agency reported, some of the harshest sentences in a crackdown on opponents yet.
State-run BelTa said the four individuals were members of an anarchist group that had set fire to several police cars and had thrown a Molotov cocktail at an administrative building last year at a time when thousands were protesting against President Alexander Lukashenko.
The court session was closed and it was not immediately clear how the four individuals had pleaded.
Huge crowds took to the streets of Belarus in August last year to protest against what they said were the falsified results of a presidential election which showed that veteran incumbent Lukashenko, in power since 1994, had won again.
Lukashenko denied electoral fraud.
Lukashenko, who is supported by Russia, has since used the courts and the police to systematically repress his opponents and critics by locking them up for long periods or forcing them abroad.
The West has imposed sanctions on Belarus over the crackdown, but Lukashenko has ignored those and shrugged off Western condemnation and pressed ahead anyway.
United Nations special rapporteur Anaïs Marin has said that more than 35,000 people have been arbitrarily detained over the past year in Belarus and that the fear of repression had caused tens of thousands to seek refuge abroad.
A court last week found Syarhei Tsikhanouski, the husband of opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, guilty of organising mass unrest and of inciting social hatred, and handed him an 18-year jail term.
His supporters said the charges were fabricated and politically motivated. – Rappler.com