All five of the defendants are outside of Belarus.
MINSK -- Five Belarusian activists have each been sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison in a high-profile case related to the creation of a social-media account that revealed the personal data of law enforcement officers involved in the brutal crackdown on protests over the results of the August 2020 presidential election.
The Minsk City Court sentenced journalists Dzmitry Navosha and Yanina Sazanovich and co-defendants Danil Bahdanovich, Volha Vysotskaya, and Valeryya Zanyamonskaya, on January 18 after finding them guilty of inciting social hatred and illegally revealing personal data.
All of the defendants are outside of Belarus. They expressed a willingness to participate in the trial via video links, but the court rejected that, demanding they be present in the courtroom.
The Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.
The activists created their online Black Book of Belarus account following the election that handed authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka victory to identify security agents who violently dispersed unprecedented mass protests across the country that lasted for several months amid opposition cries that the balloting was rigged.
The opposition and Western governments say Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was driven into exile, won the vote. Thousands were detained in the subsequent protests and there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by security forces. Several people have died during the crackdown. The 68-year-old Lukashenka has leaned heavily on Russian support amid Western sanctions while punishing the opposition and arresting or forcing abroad many of its leaders. The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka's self-declared victory. In July, Lukashenka signed amendments to the Criminal Procedural Code allowing trials in absentia. On January 17, the Minsk City Court started the trial in absentia of Tsikhanouskaya and her four associates on charge of high treason, organizing mass disorder, creating an extremist group, inciting hatred, plotting to seize power, and calling for international sanctions against Belarus.