The European Parliament on Thursday called on Belarusian authorities to stop the ill-treatment of a former would-be president jailed for opposing the country’s authoritarian leader and immediately release him and other political prisoners.
Viktar Babaryka was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment in 2021 on charges he dismissed as political punishment for launching a bid to challenge Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election.
The European Parliament said Babaryka was hospitalized in April with traces of beatings that required surgery. Babaryka’s supporters said authorities have not released any information about his condition and have prevented his lawyer from visiting him.
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The European Parliament has urged the Belarusian authorities to release Babaryka and other political prisoners. He strongly condemned the “inhumane treatment of political prisoners and their families” in Belarus.
Belarus has been rocked by major anti-government protests since Lukashenko’s disputed re-election in August 2020, which the opposition and the West have denounced as rigged. Babaryka was arrested before the vote and was never allowed to participate in the race.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger in the 2020 elections who was forced to flee the country after the vote, thanked the European Parliament and welcomed its call for broader sanctions against the Belarusian authorities.
“There must be no impunity for these crimes,” he said.
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Belarusian authorities responded to the demonstrations with a major crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested, thousands beaten by police, and dozens of media outlets and non-governmental organizations shut down.
Human rights groups say Belarus now has around 1,500 political prisoners. They say these prisoners are subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture, with some of them dying in detention.
The main Belarusian human rights organization, Visana, said on Thursday that 35-year-old art director Pavel Belavus was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment following a closed-door trial on charges of committing high treason, “creation of an extremist group” and “damaged the national government”. safety.”
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Belavus, who has been in custody since his arrest in November 2021, was a leading organizer of opposition protests in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. During his trial, he denied the charges and vowed to continue defending democratic freedoms .