MINSK-- A Belarusian court has sentenced a senior official at the Justice Ministry to two years in prison for taking part in an unsanctioned mass protest last year against official election results that handed authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.
Minsk’s Frunze district court on October 5 found Alyaksey Syankou, who held the rank of colonel, guilty of "taking part in public events that blatantly violated the social order and led to the disruption of transportation" in the center of the capital in August 2020.
Judge Natallya Buhuk sentenced him the same day.
Syankou, 43, was arrested in early July and fired from his job at the Investigative Committee, where he had held various positions since 2012.
He has maintained his innocence.
Belarus was engulfed by protests last year after the August 9 presidential election, which the opposition and the West say was rigged.
The mass protests demanding Lukashenka's resignation were met with the the heavy-handed -- and sometimes violent -- detention of tens of thousands of people.
Several demonstrators have been killed and there have been what human rights groups call credible reports of torture in the crackdown.
Much of the opposition leadership has been jailed or forced into exile.
During his trial, Syankou told the court that he was at the August rally to take pictures, and that he did not take part in the clashes between riot police and protesters that day.
He said he was accompanied by his younger brother Yury Syankou, who was arrested in April and later sentenced to three years in prison on similar charges and for inciting social discord via social networks.
The younger Syankou headed the financial department of Minsk’s Lenin district.
Belarusian Colonel Gets Two Years In Prison After Attending Anti-Lukashenka Rally