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University Student In Belarus Gets Four-Year Prison Term For Blog On Protests

A protest march in Minsk, August 30, 2020
A protest march in Minsk, August 30, 2020

A court in Minsk has sentenced a student at the Belarusian State Medical University to four years in prison for his coverage of anti-government protests on social media as authoritian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on dissent stemming from a disputed presidential election in August 2020.

The Minsk City Court on November 16 sentenced 21-year-old Uladzislau Martsinovich for allegedly making "public calls for actions aimed at damaging national security," the Vyasna (Spring) human rights center said.

The charge stemmed from Martsinovich's online activities in the autumn of 2020, namely his creation of the "White Robes" channel on the social media platform Telegram, through which he covered the protests against the official results of presidential poll in August that handed Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term in office despite opposition claims it had won the vote.

Martsinovich, who was arrested in November last year, initially rejected the charge, but in September he agreed to plead guilty. Many believe he made the confession under duress, while human rights groups in Belarus have recognized Martsinovich a political prisoner.

Belarusian authorities have declared hundreds of Telegram channels and chats “extremist” since Belarus was engulfed by the protests.

In response, the government has cracked down hard on the pro-democracy movement, arresting thousands of people and pushing most leading opposition figures out of the country.

Lukashenka, who has run the country since 1994, has denied any election fraud and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on a political transition and new elections.

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