Belarus jails Radio Liberty freelancer for six years for ‘extremism’

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A court in Belarus sentenced a freelance journalist for the Belarusian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to six years in jail on extremism charges, the broadcaster and the Spring-96 human rights organisation said.

The trial of Andrey Kuznechik, who was arrested last November, was closed to the public. He was accused of creating an extremist group. The prosecution has not disclosed the details of the charges and it is not known how he pleaded in court.

Calls to the court went unanswered.

Belarus has labelled U.S.-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other independent media outlets extremist organisations. Some opposition-minded media have been labelled terrorist organisations.

In a statement, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, president and CEO Jamie Fly said: “Andrey has been sentenced on ludicrous charges in a closed-door trial, which was over in a few hours.

“It is telling that the charges against him only surfaced in late May, more than six months after he was first arrested. We demand Andrey’s immediate release.”

Belarus has cracked down hard on dissent since summer 2020, when huge anti-government protests erupted.

Human rights workers say more than 1,200 political prisoners are being held in custody, including around 30 journalists.

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