ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A court of appeals in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, has upheld a decision to extradite Belarusian activist Yana Pinchuk to Minsk, where she faces charges for protesting the disputed August 2020 presidential election that kept authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka in power despite opposition accusations that the voting was rigged.
The court handed down its decision on July 21 even after the 25-year-old activist said she may face torture if returned to custody in Belarus.
Pinchuk is wanted in Belarus on several charges, including inciting national hatred, calls for activities that damaged national security, and slander. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
Police in St. Petersburg arrested Pinchuk on November 1 last year at the request of Belarus.
Belarusian authorities accuse Pinchuk of administering the Vitsebsk97% Telegram channel, which had been critical of Lukashenka's regime and has been labeled as extremist in Belarus.
Pinchuk has rejected all of the charges, saying she immediately closed the Telegram channel after it was officially designated as extremist.
She is one of many Belarusians who have faced multiple charges linked to the mass protests against Lukashenka following the controversial presidential election.
Thousands have been arrested, and much of the opposition leadership has been jailed or forced into exile. Several protesters have been killed, and there have also been credible reports of torture during a widening security crackdown.
Belarusian authorities have also shut down several nongovernmental organizations and independent media outlets.
The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote and imposed several rounds of sanctions on him and his regime, citing election fraud and the crackdown.
In December, Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Pinchuk as a political prisoner and demanded her immediate release.