Belarus court sentences two journalists to two years in prison
A court in Belarus on Thursday sentenced two journalists to two years in prison on charges of fomenting protests against strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Authorities in the ex-Soviet country are pursuing a number of criminal cases against activists and journalists in the wake of months of anti-government protests last year.
The demonstrations swept Belarus after Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in an August election that the opposition and many Western countries said was fraudulent.
In response, the authorities unleashed a mass crackdown, which left at least four protesters dead, thousands in jail and hundreds claiming torture in custody.
Poland-based opposition television station Belsat reported Thursday that the two journalists, Katerina Bakhvalova, 27, and Daria Chultsova, 23, were sentenced for leading “group actions that grossly violate public order” while filming a November rally in support of a dead anti-government protester.
Both women, who were photographed Thursday smiling and flashing the V for victory sign from inside a cage for defendants, had been held in pre-trial custody since.
“I showed these events live. For this I was thrown into jail on trumped-up charges,” Belsat reported Bakhvalova as telling a judge Wednesday in her final statement before sentencing.
As the journalists were handed their verdict Thursday morning, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement it had opened a criminal case into the death of the protester…..read more