Belarus: Political activist gets 25 years in prison amid further crackdown on dissidents

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By Euronews  with AP
A Belarusian national flag flutters over a street in Minsk in February 2022
A Belarusian national flag flutters over a street in Minsk in February 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr

A leading political activist in Belarus was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday for opposing strongman President Alexander Lukashenko's regime in the latest step in the country's brutal crackdown on political dissidents.

Mikalay Autukhovich was convicted on charges of "plotting a terror attack, high treason and conspiracy to seize power" -- all categories added to the country's penal code by Lukashenko after the 2020 large-scale protests against him and his government, sparked by allegations of serious election-rigging. 

Along with Autukhovich, 11 other activists in Belarus were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years.

Autukhovich, 59, is a former military officer and a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. He helped the regime's rivals raise funds for their efforts to oppose Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation for nearly three decades. 

It comes just ten days after jailed Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski was jointly awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Viasna Human Rights Centre. 

Belarus' opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said Bialiatski's accolade will help "attract more attention to the humanitarian situation" in the country.

Sergei Grits/AP2011
Ales Bialiatski sits in a cage during a court session in Minsk, Belarus in 2011Sergei Grits/AP2011

Bialiatski was detained following Lukashenko's 2020 re-election. Tsikhanouskaya has been in exile since.

A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko has forcefully suppressed demonstrations and dissent sparked by his victory claims.