Belarus introduces death penalty for attempted 'terrorism'

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during an interview with the Associated Press at the Independence Palace in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, May 5, 2022. AP - Markus Schreiber

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Belarus has introduced the death penalty for preparing an attack or "attempted act of terrorism", according to a decree published on Wednesday and cited by Russian agencies, charges that target many opposition activists, including its leader exiled.

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 Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed the law providing for the possibility of the death penalty for an attempted act of terrorism

 ", according to the Ria Novosti agency, while until now only those who have committed such an act were liable execution.

According to the Interfax agency, the text notes that no "

 preparation or attempt

 " of crime is punishable by death, with the exception of those qualified as " 

terrorists 

".

Since the vast protest movement of 2020 against the re-election of

the authoritarian Lukashenko, in power since 1994

, many opponents have been charged and arrested for attempting or preparing an act of terrorism.

In March 2021, the Belarusian prosecutor's office announced that the leader of the opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaïa, forced into exile in 2020 by the repression of the protest, was herself the subject of an investigation for "

 preparation of act of terrorism in an organized gang

 ,” according to the Belarusian state agency Belta.

Last country in Europe to still apply the death penalty

Belarus, a former Soviet republic allied with Russia, is the last country in Europe to still apply the death penalty.

The country, which carries out several executions each year, shoots its convicts.

Since the 2020 presidential election, during which Ms. Tikhanovskaya amassed surprise popular support mobilizing huge crowds to denounce a vote rigged by Alexander Lukashenko, the authorities have given a considerable turn of the screw, arresting hundreds of people and forcing the exile crowd of opposition leaders or simple demonstrators.

Many figures of the movement have been sentenced to heavy prison terms, NGOs and independent media have been banned and accused of extremism.

New trial

A new trial of 12 opposition activists also opened on Wednesday in the city of Grodno and their alleged leader, Nikolai Avtukhovitch, is notably accused of an act of " 

terrorism 

" and of preparing an act of " 

terrorism 

" in an organized gang, according to the human rights NGO Viasna, several of whose members and its leader are also in prison.

According to this source, the investigators accuse the group of having set fire to a car and the house of a policeman, then to have exploded the car of another.

(with AFP)

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