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Minsk court sentences noted investigative journalist to eight years in prison

Judge's gavel. (Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/U.S. Air Force)

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

The Minsk City Court has sentenced noted investigative journalist Syarhey Satsuk to eight years in prison on charges that many consider unfounded and politically motivated as a crackdown on independent media and civil society continues under authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists said that Judge Svyatlana Bandarenka pronounced the sentence on October 26. Last week, prosecutors asked the judge to convict Satsuk, the editor in chief of the Yezhednevnik (Daily News) website, on charges of bribe-taking, inciting social hatred, and abuse of office and sentence him to eight years in prison.

Satsuk, who went on trial on September 23 and whom Belarusian human rights organizations have recognized as a political prisoner, was arrested in December 2021 after police searched his home.

Satsuk is one of 32 Belarusian journalists who are currently in custody, many of whom have been jailed since an August 2020 presidential election where Lukashenka was officially announced as the winner.

Rights activists and opposition politicians say the poll was rigged. Thousands have been detained during countrywide protests over the results and there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Several people have died during the crackdown.

Lukashenka, in power since 1994, has refused to negotiate with the opposition and many of its leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country.

The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote and imposed several rounds of sanctions on him and his regime, citing election fraud and the crackdown.