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Belarus: Former presidential contender sentenced to 14 years must be released

Responding to the guilty verdict and 14-year prison sentence handed down to former presidential hopeful Viktar Babaryka today in Minsk, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“This is a politically-motivated sentence that further darkens the already grim picture of fear and despair in Belarus. Voices of dissent are being drowned out, as an anxious silence is forcibly imposed by an ever more repressive government.

“Viktar Babaryka has been targeted because he dared to challenge Alyaksandr Lukashenka and is now paying the price for his courage with his liberty.

Viktar Babaryka has been targeted because he dared to challenge Alyaksandr Lukashenka and is now paying the price for his courage with his liberty

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

“Viktar Babaryka is a prisoner of conscience, prosecuted solely for the peaceful exercise of his human rights, including freely expressing his political opinions. He, along with those arrested alongside him simply for supporting his presidential campaign, must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

Background

The Supreme Court of Belarus has sentenced the former head of Belgazprombank and presidential hopeful at the 2020 elections, Viktar Babaryka, to 14 years in a high-security penal colony after finding him guilty of politically-motivated charges of “receiving bribes on an especially large scale, organized by a group” (Article 430(3) of the Criminal Code) and “money laundering” (Article 235(2)). Babaryka was also fined the equivalent of US$57,000 and ordered to pay more than US$18 million as “compensation for the damage caused”.

Viktar Babaryka declared his intention to run for the presidency on 12 May 2020 but was refused registration as a candidate. Just a month later, on 18 June, he was arrested together with his son and campaign chief Eduard Babaryka. Eduard Babaryka was charged with “tax evasion” (Article 243 of the Criminal Code). His case is still at the investigation stage.