Fri, 21 Jan 2022

Prosecutors are seeking up to 20 years in prison for a leading human rights activist in Belarus who was arrested during protests following a disputed presidential election in August 2020.

The Vyasna human rights center said on November 29 that one of its coordinators, Marfa Rabkova, has obtained the final document defining charges against her from the demonstrations that have sparked a brutal, and sometimes deadly, crackdown by the regime of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

In all, Rabkova faces 13 charges, including the organization of mass disorder, plotting to organize mass disorder, instructing potential participants to partake in mass disorder, the organization of public activities that violated civil order, publicly calling for activities that threatened national security, the creation of an extremist formation, running an extremist organization, inciting social hatred, major hooliganism, extreme hooliganism, vandalism, damaging private property, and illegal activities with the use of explosives.

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If found guilty on all charges, Rabkova could be imprisoned for as many as 20 years.

Rabkova, who has rejected all of the charges, saying they are politically motivated, was arrested in September 2020 and initially charged with helping prepare mass disorder, a charge that carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

Police in Belarus have violently cracked down on protesters, with thousands of detentions following a disputed presidential election in August 2020 that demonstrators and opposition figures say was rigged to extend Lukashenka's 26-year rule. There have also been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment, and several people have died.

Many of Belarus's opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, while Lukashenka, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1994, has refused to negotiate with the opposition.

The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote, and imposed sanctions on him and his allies, citing election fraud and the police crackdown, which has also been aimed at press freedoms.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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