A Belarusian blogger was sentenced to three years in prison for “insulting” Alyaksandr Lukashenka by writing in an article that the authoritarian leader of the country was “illegitimate” amid a wave of protests against the results of the presidential election of last year that opposition say was rigged.
A court in the western city of Shchuchyn issued its ruling against Vadzim Ermashuk, also known in his social media posts as Vadimati, on December 21.
The 36-year-old blogger, who was also accused of desecrating the flag for an article in which he called it a “rag”, dismissed the charges and refused to testify in the courtroom or respond to comments. questions from the judge.
Emashuk was initially detained in August this year and sentenced to several days in jail for hooliganism for protesting. He was not released after serving his sentence as prosecutors brought new charges against him for his posts.
Ermashuk is one of dozens of Belarusians who have been tried in recent months as authorities brutally crack down on dissent in any form since the disputed presidential election in August 2020.
Rights activists and opposition politicians say the poll was rigged to extend Lukashenka’s 26-year reign. Thousands of people have been arrested during protests across the country, and credible reports have been made of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Several people died during the crackdown.
Many Belarusian opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, while Lukashenka has refused to negotiate with the opposition.
The United States, the European Union and several other countries refused to recognize Lukashenka as the winner of the vote and imposed several rounds of sanctions on him and his regime, citing electoral fraud and police repression.