The son of a jailed Belarusian presidential hopeful was convicted and sentenced Wednesday on charges that he and other activists rejected as trumped up.
The Minsk District Court sentenced Eduard Babaryka, 34, to eight years in prison for “organizing mass riots” and “inciting hatred” — accusations that he denied.
“I have not committed a single crime I am accused of,” said Babaryka, who has been in custody since his arrest more than three years ago. “The investigation did not find a single piece of evidence of my guilt.”
He is the son of Viktar Babaryka, an aspiring presidential candidate who sought to challenge Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in a 2020 election but was denied registration for the race and later handed a 14-year prison sentence.
The condition of the older Babaryka hasn’t been known for over two months, and his supporters suspect he was beaten and put in a prison hospital.
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The August 2020 vote that handed a sixth term to Lukashenko was rejected as fraudulent by the opposition and the West, and the country was swept by massive protests, some of which drew more than 100,000 people. Authorities responded with a brutal crackdown that saw over 35,000 people arrested, thousands beaten by police while in custody, and dozens of nongovernmental organizations and independent media shut down.
Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who challenged Lukashenko in the 2020 election and was pressured to flee Belarus after the vote, strongly condemned Babaryka’s sentencing as “vile act of revenge” for supporting his father. “This injustice can’t be allowed to stand,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
The 9.5-million nation currently has about 1,500 political prisoners, according to Viasna human rights group. Its head Ales Bialiatski, who won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, is serving 10 years after being convicted of financing actions that violated the public order and smuggling — charges he rejects.
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