Student Activist In Belarus Gets Five Years In Prison Amid Brutal Crackdown

MINSK -- Another activist in Belarus has been handed a lengthy prison sentence amid an ongoing crackdown on those who have challenged the official results of last year's presidential election that handed victory to strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka despite opposition claims the balloting was rigged.

The Minsk City Court on December 9 found 20-year-old Artsyom Bayarski, an award-winning university student, guilty of creating an extremist entity and of organizing activities that violated social order. After pronouncing the verdict, Judge Alena Shylko sentenced the former chemistry student to five years in prison.

Bayarski was violently arrested by security forces eight months ago. Since then, he has only been allowed to see his parents twice.

Bayarski, who was award a presidential scholarship at Belarus State University for his academic achievements, demonstrated along with hundreds of other students against the August 2020 election results, which opposition politicians and many others say was rigged to hand Lukashenka his sixth consecutive term in office.

Thousands have been detained during the countrywide protests and there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Several people have died during the crackdown. Many of Belarus's opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country.

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 police crackdown.

He rejects the allegations of electoral fraud and refuses to negotiate with the opposition.