On July 6, 2021, Viktor Babariko, the former chief of the Russian-owned Belgaz prombank, stands in a court cage in Minsk, Belarus. (Ramil Nasibulin / AP)
Kiev, Ukraine-On Tuesday, the Belarusian Supreme Court sentenced a former candidate for the 2020 presidential election to 14 years in prison in a case widely regarded as politically motivated.
Former CEO of a Russian-owned bank, Victor Bavalico, eagerly challenged Belarusian authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko in last year’s elections. However, Babariko was arrested two months before the August 2020 vote. His arrest drew thousands of protesters to the streets. At that time, he was widely recognized as a top candidate for the race.
Babariko has remained in prison since his arrest and refused to accuse him of corruption as a political motive. On Tuesday, he was convicted of bribery and money laundering. The court sentenced him to 14 years in prison and a fine of approximately $ 57,000. He cannot appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision.
Lukashenko’s re-election to the sixth term last year caused massive months of protest, the largest of which attracted up to 200,000 people. Opposition parties refused to acknowledge the outcome of the election, saying the vote was manipulated. Authorities responded to the protests with a large-scale crackdown in which more than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands were beaten by police.
Most opposition leaders have been imprisoned or forced to leave the country.