Belarus sentences former Olympian Hierasimnia in absentia to 12 years in prison

Written by Ronald Popeski and Lydia Kelly

(Reuters) – A Minsk court has sentenced former Olympic swimmer Aleksandra Herasemenya and political activist Aleksandr Opekin to 12 years in prison in absentia for demanding sanctions and actions aimed at harming Belarus’ national security.

State news agency Belta reported that they were “convicted of public calls for acts aimed at harming the national security of Belarus, including the use of restrictive measures (sanctions) against Belarus and individuals and legal entities of the republic”. Monday.

Such actions have dire consequences.”

Belarus has been shunned by the United Nations and many countries for its ongoing crackdown on political opponents, civil society and journalists.

According to the US Embassy in Belarus, there are more than 1,300 political prisoners in Belarus.

Herasemenya, a three-time Olympic medalist, was among elite athletes who fled Belarus in the wake of a crackdown on those protesting what they said was the fraudulent re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has denied any wrongdoing. Although not officially involved in Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia has used Belarusian territory to launch its multi-pronged offensives.

Aleksandr Ubykin is the head of the Belarus Sports Solidarity Foundation which aims to support athletes who have been arrested and faced repression under Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule.

“From August 2020 to May 20, 2022, through the media and the Internet, they deliberately spread false information and fabrications about the events that took place on the territory of Belarus, about the course and results of the 2020 election campaign,” Belta reported.

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The court also ordered the confiscation of Herasemenia’s apartment, her car, and $48,700 in her bank accounts.

Belarusian opposition leader-in-exile Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya condemned the court ruling.

“shameful!” Tsikhanouskaya said on her Twitter account. He added, “The regime cannot reach them, but their property has been seized in Belarus, including a car and an apartment. This is how the regime is trying to punish its opponents in exile.”

(Reporting in Winnipeg by Ron Popeskey and in Melbourne by Lydia Kelly; Writing by Lydia Kelly; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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