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Epileptic Teen Given Prison Sentence For Protesting Belarus Election

Mikita Zalatarou (right) and Dzmitry Karneyeu in the court in Homel, Belarus

HOMEL, Belarus -- A court in the southeastern Belarusian city of Homel has sentenced a 16-year-old youngster with a medical condition to five years in prison for participating in protests demanding the resignation of the authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Judge Dzmitry Deboy of the Chyhunachny district court on February 22 sentenced Mikita Zalatarou, along with two other defendants -- 25-year-old Dzmitry Karneyeu and 28-year-old Leanid Kavalyou -- after finding them guilty of taking part in "mass civil disobedience."

Karneyeu and Kavalyou were sentenced to eight years and six years, respectively.

After the judge pronounced the sentences, Zalatarou, who has epilepsy, began throwing himself against the bars in the courtroom cage he and the other defendants were placed in, shouting "Let me out of here!"

His father said earlier that police had severely beaten his son right after his arrest in August 2020, and again while in pretrial detention.

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During the trial, the teenager also said that he had been beaten while in custody and deprived of the pills he needed to use on a daily basis to treat his medical condition.

"A prison guard told me when I asked for my medicine that 'you are political and therefore you will turn away,'" the boy said at the trial.

The three were arrested in the wake of nationwide protests that started after Lukashenka, who has run the country since 1994, was declared the victor of an August 9 presidential election.

The country's political opposition and many people in the country have said the poll was rigged.

Security officials have cracked down hard on the demonstrators, arresting thousands, including dozens of journalists who covered the rallies, and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country.

Several protesters have been killed in the violence, some were handed prison terms, and some rights organizations say there is credible evidence of torture being used by security officials against some of those detained.

Lukashenka has denied any wrongdoing with regard to the election and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on stepping down and holding a new vote.

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.

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