Belarusian presidential challenger jailed for 14 years

Minsk, Jul 6 (EFE).- A Belarusian court on Tuesday jailed former presidential aspirant Viktar Babaryka to 14 years in jail on corruption charges his team insists are political.

Babaryka, described by international human rights groups as a political prisoner, was detained as he collected signatures for his candidacy to run against long-serving president Alexander Lukashenko in the August 2020 election. He has been in pretrial custody since June 2020.

Around a hundred protesters gathered at the court in Minsk to express their support to the 57-year-old.

Following his arrest, Babaryka’s campaign team lent its support to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who became the face of the anti-Lukashenko opposition. She fled to neighboring Lithuania following Lukashenko’s victory in the election, which critics and Western governments say was rigged.

In a Telegram message, Tsikhanouskaya described Babaryka’s jailing as “demented.”

The United States embassy in Belarus tweeted: “Today’s harsh sentence on Viktar Babaryka demonstrated the imitation of justice by the Belarusian judicial system and the fact that the Lukashenko regime will stop at nothing but to stay in power.” EFE


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