Belarus sentences journalist to 8 years in prison

TALLINN, Estonia (HPD) β€” A Belarusian court sentenced a prominent investigative journalist to eight years in prison on Wednesday, the latest move in a sweeping crackdown on the independent press by authorities in Belarus.

Siarhei Satsuk, editor-in-chief of the popular online publication Yezhednevnik, investigated corruption in the Belarusian government and covered the protests that rocked the country for months in 2020.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists said Satsuk was found guilty of accepting a bribe, abuse of office and incitement to hatred. His attorneys deny the charges.

At the end of a closed-door trial, the court ruled that the journalist must serve eight years in a maximum-security prison, pay a fine of around $6,000 and an additional $5,000 in damages.

The media outlet headed by Satsuk covered the protests unleashed in August 2020 after a presidential election that the local opposition and Western countries consider rigged.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who won a sixth term in those elections, responded by unleashing a sweeping crackdown on the opposition in which more than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands beaten by police.

The 54-year-old journalist was arrested in December 2021 and has been in prison ever since. From the day of his arrest, the Belarusian authorities blocked Yezhednevnik, who had published reports on corruption in the health system.

Satsuk reported receiving threats for his investigative reporting. In a written message delivered to other journalists shortly before his arrest, Satsuk said that β€œin Belarus, a person’s life and freedom are worth nothing. For the authorities, it is easier to have someone killed than to recognize acts of corruption.”

Human rights activists consider Satsuk one of more than 1,300 political prisoners in the country.

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