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Belarusian oppositionists sentenced to 25 years in penal colony

A court in Grodno, Belarus, has sentenced 12 people, including five women, to a penal colony for a stretch of time ranging from 2.5 to 25 years for alleged membership in a “criminal organisation”.

In the case that was opened on May 18, all of the defendants were accused of “terrorism”.

The severest sentence was handed down to Belarusian entrepreneur and social activist Mikalay Autukhovich, as reported by the “Viasna” Human Rights Centre. Portrayed as the leader of the group, the man was sentenced on charges of terrorism, treason, illegal handling of weapons and explosives, an attempt at taking power in an unconstitutional way, assembling a criminal group, fomenting social hostility, and smuggling.

In line with the ruling, he is to spend the first five years in prison and the remaining 20 in a penal colony. He was also sentenced to a fine of over EUR 12,920.

The remaining accused also received severe sentences. Orthodox priest Zhabinki Siarhiey Raznovich is set to spend 16 years in a penal colony, a year more than his wife Lubovia who was sentenced to 15 years. Their son Pavel was sentenced to 19 years. Wolha Mayrova would be out after 20 years, much like Halina Dzierbysh and Pavel Sava. Uladzimir Hundar, a man with disabilities, was sentenced to 18 years in a penal colony. Viktar Sniehur was sentenced to a year longer, namely 19 years.

The sentences handed down to the second son of Siarhiey and Lubovia, Dzmitryi, and the couple of Iryna and Anton Mielcherov remain unknown.

The defendants made numerous complaints about being submitted to torture. Both the defendants and their lawyers have said that the charges were trumped-up, while claiming that no “criminal organisation” has ever existed, and that they, i.e. the defendants, had been charged only because they had been conducting social activities for democracy and independence of Belarus.

On October 7, the court in Grodno sentenced Yuriy Stanieuski to seven years of penal colony for allegedly “offending Alyaksandr Lukashenka” and “inciting social hatred”, according to the “Viasna” Human Rights Centre.

Yuriy Stanieuski, 38, used to publish articles on the Internet critical of the Belarusian regime and its repressions of society. Mr Stanieuski was arrested by the Belarusian KGB in December last year.

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