Belarus hands opposition activists prison terms in absentia



TALLINN, Estonia — Belarusian authorities on Monday handed prolonged jail phrases to 2 opposition activists who had fled the nation, within the first court docket verdict in opposition to dissidents that was introduced in absentia.

Aliaksandra Herasimenia and Alexander Opeikin had been every sentenced to 12 years in jail. A court docket in Minsk convicted the 2 on fees of calling for sanctions and inflicting hurt on the nationwide safety of Belarus.

Herasimenia, a former swimmer and three-time Olympic medalist, and Opeikin based the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Basis, which united a whole bunch of Belarusian athletes vital of President Alexander Lukahsenko’s authoritarian rule.

Belarus was shaken by main protests after the disputed August 2020 reelection of Lukashenko, which the opposition and the West denounced as a sham. Authorities responded to the demonstrations with a crackdown that noticed greater than 35,000 folks arrested and 1000’s crushed by police. It was adopted by an array of crippling Western sanctions.

The muse created by Herasimenia and Opeikin contributed to canceling the largest worldwide tournaments in Belarus in 2021, together with the European Monitor Championships, the Ice Hockey World Championship and World Fashionable Pentathlon Championships —- a humiliation for Lukahsenko, who loves sports activities and is a proud hockey participant.

Belarusian authorities accused the 2 activists of undermining Belarus’ nationwide safety. The trial was held behind closed doorways and with out the accused current in accordance with a brand new legislation Lukahsenko signed in July, which allowed courts to attempt Belarusians who had fled overseas in absentia.

Along with handing Herasimenia a jail time period, the court docket additionally dominated to grab her condo, her automobile and $48,000 in her financial institution accounts.

In line with Belarus’ most outstanding human rights group, Viasna, 1,439 political prisoners are presently behind bars in Belarus.

Opposition chief Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who additionally faces prosecution and lives in exile in Lithuania, condemned the sentences handed to Herasimenia and Opeikin on Monday.

“Shameful!.. That is how the regime tries to punish its opponents in exile,” Tsikhanouskaya tweeted. “The regime can’t get to them, however their property in Belarus was seized, together with a automobile (and) an condo.”

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