Belarus’ Supreme Court loyal to the Alyaksandr Lukashenka regime has upheld an 8-year sentence that had been handed down earlier to journalist, pro-democracy and Polish minority activist Andrey Poczobut, the Polish Press Agency (PAP) reported on Friday.
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Poczobut himself, according to the PAP, was not brought to the Supreme Court for the appeal hearing, which is a common practice in Belarus and also allowed by Belarusian law. The hearing was held behind closed doors and only the direct participants in the trial, i.e. the lawyer and the prosecutor, among others, could enter the courtroom.
Detained 2 years ago in Grodno
Poczobut is an activist for the Union of Poles in Belarus – a Polish minority organization outlawed in 2005 by the Lukashenka regime. As a journalist, he has also cooperated with the Polish media. Poczobut was detained in his hometown of Grodno in March 2021. The activist has been in custody since then.
According to the Belarusian court, Poczobut was alleged to have “called for sanctions and other actions to the detriment of Belarus” through media publications and on the Internet. He was also accused of committing “intentional actions aimed at inciting hostility and hatred on national, religious and social grounds”. For these alleged crimes, a court of first instance handed down an eight-year in-prison sentence to Poczobyt on February 8.
Poland has been demanding the release of Poczobut – a representative of the Polish minority. Poland has also called for clearing him of politically motivated, false charges. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs assures that it is continually working for Poczobut’s release.