© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Presidential challenger Babariko attends a information convention in Minsk
By Matthias Williams (NYSE:)
KYIV (Reuters) – A trial started in Belarus on Wednesday of a former banking government who was jailed final 12 months after difficult President Alexander Lukashenko in an election that sparked mass protests in opposition to the veteran chief’s rule.
Viktor Babariko, the previous head of Belgazprombank, faces as much as 15 years in jail on corruption costs that his crew says had been fabricated to stop him from standing as a candidate in final August’s presidential election.
Carrying a face masks, his fingers behind his again, the 57-year-old Babariko sat in a cage within the courtroom with different defendants, whereas dozens of supporters waited in freezing temperatures exterior attempting to get in.
Greater than 33,000 individuals have been detained in a violent crackdown on protests following the election that Lukashenko’s opponents say was blatantly rigged to lengthen the rule of the president, who has been in energy since 1994. Lukashenko denies electoral fraud.
The crackdown prompted new Western sanctions on Minsk however Lukashenko, backed by diplomatic and monetary help from neighbouring Russia, has refused to resign.
“For many people, this 12 months has turn out to be a 12 months of victory – victory over the slavery of our personal soul,” Babariko stated in a press release earlier than the trial, accusing the federal government of “medieval repressions”.
Political analysts had seen Babariko as the most important electoral menace to Lukashenko till his arrest final June. Following his detention, his ally Maria Kolesnikova joined forces with two different ladies to steer the opposition marketing campaign.
Final week Lukashenko promised to enact political reforms however the pledge was adopted this week by raids on the houses of human rights activists and journalists.
In a joint assertion launched on Wednesday, the USA, the European Union and Britain condemned the raids and the broader human rights state of affairs in Belarus and urged authorities to instantly launch all arbitarily detained individuals and to respect democracy and the rule of regulation.
Babariko’s trial coincided with separate proceedings in opposition to two journalists from the Poland-based tv channel Belsat in Minsk. They face jail phrases for reporting dwell from the protests.
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