A court in Minsk has upheld extending the pretrial detention of a leading human rights activist in Belarus who was arrested amid ongoing protests following a disputed presidential election that demonstrators and opposition figures say was rigged to extend the 26-year rule of authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The Vyasna human rights center said on December 15 that the Partizan district court had rejected in a closed-door hearing a day earlier the appeal of coordinator Marfa Rabkova against her incarceration.
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.
Rabkova was arrested on September 17 and accused of helping prepare mass disorder, a charge that carries a prison sentence of up to three years.
Her pretrial detention was set at two months, and was renewed for another two months by the court on November 12.
Rabkova's husband, Vadzim Zharomski, said the court's verdict upholding the extension of his wife's pretrial detention was "expected."
"Unfortunately, the courts in the Republic of Belarus are not free to make decisions of their own, they are directed by thoughts imposed from above by those who say who must be jailed and who must not," Zharomski said.
Police in Belarus have violently cracked down on the protesters, with more than 27,000 detentions, according to the UN. There have also been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment, and several people have died.
Many of Belarus's opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, while Lukashenka, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1994, has refused to negotiate with the opposition.
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 fraud, the police crackdown, and press restrictions.