MINSK -- Well-known Belarusian soccer player and sports journalist Alyaksandr Ivulin has been sentenced to two years in prison for taking part in protests against authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The Soviet district court in Minsk sentenced Ivulin on January 19 after finding him guilty of the "organization and preparation of activities blatantly aimed at disrupting social order."
Ivulin, who has rejected the charge, was arrested in early June 2021 and initially sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating laws on public gatherings. Later, a criminal case was launched against him.
Belarus witnessed unprecedented anti-government protests that erupted after a presidential election in August 2020 in which Lukashenka claimed reelection, though many Belarusians say the poll was rigged.
The Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.
The protests were met with the heavy-handed detention of tens of thousands of people. Much of the opposition leadership has been jailed or forced into exile.
Several protesters have been killed and thousands arrested during mass demonstrations demanding Lukashenka's resignation. There have also been credible reports of torture during a widening security crackdown.
Belarusian authorities have also shut down several nongovernmental organizations and media outlet.
The West, which has refused to recognize the official results of the presidential election and does not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader, has imposed several rounds of sanctions against his regime.
Belarus's human rights organizations have recognized Ivulin as a political prisoner.