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Belarusian authorities bring new charges against jailed anti-government protesters

Embassy of Belarus, DC (angela n./Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A regional court in the Belarusian city of Homel will try Andrey Podnebenny on new charges related to protests against the disputed results of the Belarusian presidential election in August 2020, which handed authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term in power.

The regional court in the southeastern city will try the 33-year-old in a closed-door hearing on November 25 with Judge Ruslan Tsaruk presiding, according to the human rights group Vyasna (Spring) on November 21.

Vyasna said Podnebenny will be tried for promoting extremist activities, inciting social enmity, and insulting Lukashenka and a representative of the government.

Podnebenny, whose name has been added to a government list of terrorists, is a Russian citizen but has been living in Belarus since the age of 6 and has a residency permit, according to Vyasna.

Podnebenny was sentenced in June to 15 years in prison on charges of terrorism, attempting to damage private property, and the creation of an extremist group. All charges are related to Podnebenny’s participation in anti-Lukashenka rallies.

Vyasna also reported on November 21 that the jailed chairwoman of the independent trade union Naftan, Volha Brytikova, was transferred to a pretrial detention center in the northeastern city of Vitebsk. Vyasna said this is presumably because a criminal charge has been filed against her, but the organization has no details on the case.

Brytikova, who was released in May after 75 days of arrest, was rearrested in early November and sentenced to 15 days in prison for the dissemination of extremist materials.

Brytikova announced a hunger strike on November 8, alleging that her rights had been violated. There is no information on whether she is continuing with the hunger strike.

The cases highlight Lukashenka’s harsh, and sometimes violent, crackdown against any dissent since the election, which opposition members say was rigged.

The 68-year-old, who has been in power since 1994, has directed a campaign to arrest tens of thousands of people. Fearing for their safety, most opposition members have fled the country.