This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The prosecutor at the trial of the leader of the Belarusian opposition United Civic Party (AHP), Mikalay Kazlou, has asked a court in Minsk to sentence him to 30 months in prison for participating in a protest march days after an August 2020 presidential election that handed authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term in power, despite the widespread belief that the vote was rigged.
Prosecutor Ina Zubko on November 2 also asked Judge Anastasia Kulik of the Pershamayski district court to convict and sentence the leader of the AHP’s branch in Minsk, Aksana Alyakseyeva, to 18 months in prison, and human rights defender Antanina Kavalyova to one year in prison.
Kazlou, Alyakseyeva, and Kavalyova were arrested in late July and charged with taking part in actions that disrupt civil order. Their trial started on November 1, and their verdicts and sentences are expected to be pronounced on November 3.
Two days earlier, another court in Minsk sentenced the AHP’s three other members — Andrus Asmalouski, Dziyana Charnushina, and Artur Smalyakou — to prison terms of between two and three years for the same charges.
The charges in both cases stem from a rally on August 23, 2020, that was attended by at least 100,000 people who challenged the results of the presidential poll and a brutal police crackdown that started shortly after Lukashenka was declared the winner.
Security forces dealt with the protests with the sometimes violent detention of tens of thousands of people.
Much of the opposition leadership since the election has been jailed or forced into exile. Several protesters have been killed and there have also been credible reports of torture during a widening security crackdown.
Belarusian authorities have also shut down several nongovernmental organizations and independent media outlets.
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 police crackdown.