HOMEL, Belarus – A Belarusian court today sentenced four villagers to lenient sentences in the ax murder of a man in a "vigilante justice" case, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.
The defendants -- three men and a woman -- were each charged with premeditated murder, which calls for a minimum sentence of between eight and 25 years in jail.
Two men -- who admitted killing fellow Pukhavichy villager Makalay Makarevich, 43, on December 31 -- were sentenced to five and three years in prison. The others were found guilty of aiding the crime and sentenced to two years of restricted freedom.
Homel regional prosecutor Andrej Bondar had requested sentences ranging from eight-and-a-half to 14 years.
The victim, who had previous convictions for arson, was blamed for starting a recent fire in the village.
The defendants were released from jail on February 6 after President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said the accused should be able to "stay with their families." He also advised Supreme Court Chairman Valyantsin Sukala to have sympathy for the suspects. "[The victim] was a villain who terrorized people, the entire village," Lukashenka said.