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Would-Be Belarusian Presidential Candidate Babaryka Transferred To Penal Colony

Viktar Babaryka appears in court in Minsk on July 6.

MINSK -- Jailed former Belarusian presidential contender Viktar Babaryka has been transferred to a penal colony less than a week after he was sentenced to 14 years in prison on corruption charges.

Babaryka's defense team tried to visit him in a Minsk detention center on July 12, but were informed that their client had been sent to serve his prison term to the Correctional Colony No. 1 in the eastern city of Navapolatsak.

Babaryka's verdict and sentence were pronounced on July 6 by the Supreme Court, which found him guilty of bribe-taking and money laundering.

Usually after trials, convicted and sentenced individuals stay in detention centers for months before their appeals are considered by upper courts. But because the Supreme Court tried Babaryka, he had no avenue of appeal.

Babaryka and his supporters have condemned the Supreme Court trying him and his co-defenders, saying it was done to deprive him of his right to appeal.

He and his lawyers have insisted that the case against him was politically motivated.

Babaryka, the former head of the Russian-owned Belgazprombank, was arrested in June 2020 as he was trying to register as a candidate to run against authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a presidential vote critics and observers say was massively rigged.

Three days before Babaryka's arrest last year, Belarusian authorities took control of the bank and detained several top executives on charges of tax evasion and money laundering.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

Lukashenka was declared the victor of the August 2020 election, triggering protests by tens of thousands of Belarusians who say the vote was rigged. The demonstrations lasted for months as Belarusians demanded Lukashenka, in power since 1994, step down and hold fresh elections.

Security officials have cracked down hard on the demonstrators, arresting thousands and pushing most leading opposition figures out of the country.

Several protesters have been killed in the violence and rights organizations say there is credible evidence of torture being used against some of those detained.

Lukashenka denies voter fraud and has refused to negotiate with the opposition led by Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who supporters say actually won the August election.

The European Union, United States, Canada, and other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka, 66, as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have slapped him and senior Belarusian officials with sanctions in response to the "falsification" of the vote and postelection crackdown.

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