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Belarusian journalist goes on trial for overlaying protests, faces as much as 6 years in jail

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TALLINN, Estonia — A Belarusian journalist went on trial Friday on fees linked to his skilled work overlaying protests, the newest transfer in a relentless authorities crackdown on dissent.

Photojournalist Alyaksandr Zyankou faces as much as six years in jail if convicted on fees of “participation in an extremist group” at Minsk Metropolis Court docket. Such accusations have been broadly utilized by authorities to focus on opposition members, civil society activists and unbiased journalists.

Zyankou has been in custody since his arrest in June, and his well being has deteriorated behind bars, in line with the unbiased Belarusian Affiliation of Journalists.

“Zyankou was simply taking photos to chronicle brutal repressions in Belarus, however the authorities hate anybody talking about or taking photographs of political terror within the nation,” stated the affiliation’s head, Andrei Bastunets. “Belarus is essentially the most repressive nation in Europe, the place an try at free speech is punished by jail.”

A complete of 33 Belarusian journalists are at present in jail, both awaiting trial or serving sentences.

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Belarusian authorities have cracked down on opponents of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko after big protests triggered by the August 2020 election that gave him a sixth time period in workplace. The balloting was seen by the opposition and the West as fraudulent.

Protests swept the nation for months, bringing tons of of 1000’s into the streets. Greater than 35,000 folks have been arrested, 1000’s have been overwhelmed in police custody and tons of of unbiased media retailers and nongovernmental organizations have been shut down and outlawed.

Greater than 1,400 political prisoners stay behind bars, together with leaders of opposition events and famend human rights advocate and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski.

Human Rights Watch strongly condemned the crackdown on dissent and free speech.

“Over the previous yr, Belarusian authorities doubled right down to create an info vacuum round raging repressions by reducing political prisoners off from the surface world and bullying their attorneys and households into silence,” Anastasiia Kruope, assistant Europe and Central Asia researcher on the group, stated in an announcement Thursday. “Widespread repression continues in an increasing info void.”

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