Belarus Seeks Prison Time For Journalists In Protest Trial


Belarus seeks prison time for journalists in protest trial

Minsk, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 17th Feb, 2021 ) :Prosecutors in Belarus Wednesday called for two journalists accused of organising anti-government protests to be imprisoned for two years, ignoring appeals from the opposition and Western countries for their release.

The court request comes as President Alexander Lukashenko persists with a severe crackdown on critics, raiding offices of journalists and rights defenders and putting his opponents on trial.

The two journalists for Poland-based opposition television station Belsat were detained in November while filming a rally in support of a killed anti-government protester.

Katerina Bakhvalova, 27, and Daria Chultsova, 23, were charged with "organising and preparing protests that grossly violate the public order", a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

On the third hearing of their trial Wednesday in the capital Minsk, the prosecution asked that they receive two years behind bars, Belsat said.

Both journalists pleaded innocent on the opening day of the trial earlier this month, while a prosecutor said the women attracted people to participate in a mass event through their report.

The case has drawn criticism from press freedom and rights advocacy groups, while diplomats in Western countries have condemned the trial.

Belarus was gripped by mass opposition protests last year when Lukashenko claimed a sixth term in office in August, following an election marred by evidence of fraud.

The government cracked down on the demonstrations, leaving at least four protesters dead, thousands in jail and hundreds claiming to have been tortured in custody.

The hearing Wednesday comes a day after police raided the homes and offices of dozens of journalists, rights defenders and trade union members.

The ex-Soviet country has come down hard on independent media, with journalists detained 477 times last year, according the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), and several facing criminal charges.