Belarus activist gets 25-year sentence for opposing regime

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) – A leading Belarusian political activist was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison for opposing President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, the latest step in a brutal crackdown on dissent in the former Soviet Union.

Mikalay Autukhovich was convicted and convicted by a Belarusian court on charges of plotting a terror attack, high treason and conspiracy to seize power. Along with Autukhovich, 11 other activists in Belarus were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 2 1/2 to 20 years.

Autukhovich, 59, is a former military officer and a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. He has helped the opposition raise money for their efforts to oppose Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for more than 28 years.

Lukashenko has brutally suppressed months of protests sparked by his award of a sixth term in office in a 2020 presidential election widely considered rigged. More than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands beaten by the police.

Investigators accused Autukhovich and others who were being tried alongside him in the western city of Grodno of setting fire to a police officer’s car and blowing up another police officer’s vehicle in 2020.

Autukhovich has repeatedly gone on hunger strike to protest his arrest.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main challenger to the opposition to Lukashenko in the 2020 vote to leave the country under pressure, noted that Autukhovich has received the longest sentence ever given to a political prisoner in Belarus. She called his conviction “shameful.”

“Of course all political prisoners will be free when the dictator is gone and it won’t be 25 years!” she said on Twitter.

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Viasna’s Human Rights Center said Belarus has 1,340 political prisoners.

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