MINSK -- Lawyers for Viktar Babaryka, a Belarusian banker once seen as a potential challenger to Alyaksandr Lukashenka but who was prevented from running in the presidential election and jailed on corruption charges, say his case will be heard directly by the country's Supreme Court, a move that takes away any chance of appeal.
"Viktar Babaryka's right to appeal his verdict has been rejected," lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski, a member of Babaryka's legal team, wrote on Facebook on January 28.
After he expressed his intention to run for president, the former Belgazprombank chief was arrested in June along with his son Eduard and charged with money laundering, bribery, and tax evasion. Babaryka and his son have rejected the charges as politically motivated.
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.
Lukashenka went on to be declared the victor of the August 9 election, but opposition and public outrage over what they saw as a rigged vote has sparked continuing protests, bringing tens of thousands onto the streets with demands that the authoritarian step down with new elections be held.
Security officials have cracked down hard on the demonstrators, arresting thousands and pushing most top opposition figures out of the country.
Several protesters have been killed in the violence and some rights organizations say there is credible evidence of torture being used against some of those detained.
Lukashenka, who has run the country since 1994, has denied any wrongdoing and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on stepping down or holding new elections.
The European Union, United States, Canada, and other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka, 66, as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have slapped him and senior Belarusian officials with sanctions in response to the "falsification" of the vote and postelection crackdown.