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Belarusian Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence

MINSK -- The Belarusian Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence for a 25-year-old man found guilty of a double murder and robbery, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Andrey Zhuk was found guilty of twin killings in the town of Salihorsk earlier this year.

His lawyer, Natalya Matskevich, urged the court to reverse its verdict or give a more lenient sentence. Matskevich reminded Judge Valery Kalinkovich about Belarus's international obligations regarding the rights of detainees, adding that Zhuk had been deprived of a proper defense against the charges and had no legal representation at the start of the investigation.

Kalinkovich said after announcing the verdict that Zhuk has the right to ask President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for clemency.

Belarus is the only country in Europe where the death penalty is used.

Human rights organizations say more than 160 people have been sentenced to death in Belarus since 1997.

Lukashenka has only pardoned one person.

Earlier this month, Lukashenka allowed the deadline to expire for an appeal from an illiterate Romany man sentenced to death after being found guilty of killing six women.

The European Union and several international organizations have long urged Belarus to put a moratorium on its death penalty and to eventually end the practice.