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Belarusian Prosecutor Seeks Lengthy Prison Terms For U.S. Citizen, Co-Defendants

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Prosecutors have asked a court in Minsk to convict and sentence Yuras Zyankovich, a Belarusian-born lawyer who also holds U.S. citizenship, and his five co-defendants to lengthy prison terms for planning to assassinate authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his family and seize power.

The Minsk-based Vyasna (Spring) human rights center said on August 30 that the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Zyankovich, political observer and literary expert Alyaksandr Fyaduta, and the leader of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, Ryhor Kastusyou, to 12 years in prison each.

Zyankovich and Fyaduta were snatched off a street in Moscow and driven more than 700 kilometers to Belarus in April 2021. Lukashenka claimed at the time that Zyankovich had formed a group that was part of a U.S.-backed assassination plot. Washington has denied the accusation.

Zyankovich did not enter a plea, but he reportedly said during the trial that he had agreed to cooperate with investigators. His wife has claimed that the charges against her husband are ludicrous and that if he confessed it was to save his life.

Kastusyou pleaded not guilty to the charges, while Fyaduta pleaded partially guilty. Krauchuk and Halubovich pleaded guilty.

Five others accused of being members of the group are currently residing abroad.

Lukashenka, who was ruled Belarus for nearly three decades, has frequently accused Western countries of trying to topple him after he claimed victory in the August 2020 presidential election.

Since the election, Belarus has been gripped by unprecedented protest and political turmoil, with opposition groups saying it was a rigged vote.

Belarusian security forces have arrested tens of thousands of people in a crackdown that has led to accusations of beatings and other rights abuses against demonstrators. The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions against individuals and companies tied to Lukashenka’s regime.

Most prominent opposition leaders have left the country.

The West has refused to accept Lukashenka’s victory, and few countries aside from Russia acknowledge him as president of Belarus.

Source : Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty