A Minsk court has found an 89-year-old woman guilty of violating protests laws nearly a month after she was detained alongside dozens of others at a weekly rally of retirees calling on strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka to step down.
The Leninsky District Court on January 12 slapped Valeryya Smirnova with a fine of 870 Belarusian rubles ($337), or more than half the average monthly income in the country, for participating in an unauthorized protest.
Smirnova was one of more than 100 people detained by black-clad security forces in Minsk on December 14 during a regular Monday demonstration of pensioners backing the country’s pro-democracy movement.
Smirnova’s daughter, 67-year-old Lyudmila Bystrenko, was also detained. The women spent more than six hours at the police station before being released.
According to Smirnova's great-granddaughter, Darya, the soon-to-be nonagenarian was punished for shouting "Long live Belarus!" alongside other retirees.
An anonymous witness--a police officer who spoke in court via video link--confirmed this account, the Belarusian news site Tut.by reported.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.
Belarus has been roiled by regular protests since early August when Lukashenka was declared victor of a presidential election that opposition leaders said was rigged.
Police have violently cracked down, detaining nearly 30,000 people, according to the UN. There have also been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment, and several people have died.
The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote, and imposed sanctions on him and his allies, citing election rigging and the police crackdown.