HOMEL, Belarus -- A well-known Belarusian human rights lawyer and his two assistants have gone on trial after providing legal assistance to activists, journalists, and other people who were persecuted in an ongoing crackdown by authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime.
The trial of Leanid Sudalenka and associates Tatsyana Lasitsa and Maria Tarasenka began behind closed doors on September 3 at a court in the southeastern city of Homel.
The three are charged with the "organization and preparation of actions grossly violating public order and financing such activities."
They face up to three years in prison if convicted.
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.
Sudalenka, a prominent human rights defender for two decades, has been repeatedly targeted by the Belarusian authorities.
In April, police in Homel searched his home while the activist was in Sweden.
The ongoing crackdown started after an August 2020 presidential election awarded Lukashenka a sixth term, sparking an unprecedented wave of protests amid allegations the vote was rigged.
Mass protests against Lukashenka were met with the heavy-handed, and sometimes violent, 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 what human rights groups call credible reports of torture in the crackdown.