Belarus: new legislative offensive against the opposition

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Lexand Lukashenko is continuing his efforts to control the opposition. On Tuesday, June 8, the President of Belarus signed a law that strengthens sanctions against people demonstrating at gatherings not authorized by the authorities. According to the announcements of the latter, this legislative text also provides for penalties against “extremism”. Its establishment comes as the Belarusian regime continues a relentless crackdown on the historic 2020 protest movement.

A movement contesting the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, which has resulted in the imprisonment or forced exile of hundreds of opposition supporters and journalists. A protester who participated in more than two unauthorized rallies will now risk up to three years in prison, according to this reform published Tuesday on the official legal portal.

Sentences of up to six years in prison

New penalties are also introduced to fight “extremism”. “Participation” in “extremist activities” or their “promotion” will be punishable by six years in prison. A person accused of “financing” such activities will face up to five years in prison. The independent media outlet points out that the definition of “extremism” in these cases is “broad” and does not make it possible to know exactly what activities it is about.

In Russia, accusations of “extremism” are used to prosecute both opposition organizations, such as that of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, as well as ultranationalist groups or religious movements. The new Belarusian legislation also provides for up to seven years in prison for “violence or threat of use of violence” against the police, against six previously, and three years for “resistance” to the police.

Demonstrators sentenced in recent months

In recent months, several demonstrators have been sentenced to heavy sentences for this type of crime. A new article of the Penal Code is also added against the publication of “personal” information on members of the police or their relatives. It provides for up to five years in prison, while only short prison terms were previously provided.

In 2020, the opposition had repeatedly published the identities of riot police, systematically hooded and involved in the violent repression of demonstrations. Finally, the publication of information deemed “false” about Belarus, especially on the Internet, can now be punished by four years in prison, against two previously. At the end of May, a new law had already banned journalists from covering demonstrations deemed “illegal”.

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