TALLINN (Estonia), Jan. 16 (AP) — Belarus began the trial Monday of a journalist and a prominent member of the country’s sizable Polish minority, in a campaign against critics of President Alexander Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime. The latest in a series of court cases.
Andrzej Poczobut faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty of endangering state security and inciting discord.
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Poczobut, a journalist for the influential Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and a top figure in the Belarusian Union of Poles, has been in prison since his detention in March 2021.
He has reported extensively on the major protests that have gripped Belarus for weeks in 2020 after a presidential election that gave Lukashenko a new term in power since 1994 was widely viewed by the opposition and the West as fraudulent.
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The trial in the western city of Grodno was closed to independent journalists and Western diplomats, but court photos showed Poczobut had lost significant weight while in custody.
The 2020 protests were the largest and longest running in the country. Authorities cracked down on the demonstrations, arresting more than 35,000 people, thousands were beaten by police, and dozens of media outlets and NGOs were shut down.
This month, Belarus tried human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, co-recipient of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, for funding protests. Another trial of two top figures at the now-banned independent news portal TUT.BY began last week.
About 300,000 of Belarus’ population of 10 million are Poles. The Polish coalition has come under pressure from the government after authorities accused Poland of trying to foment an uprising against Lukashenko. (Associated Press)
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