MINSK -- A noted civil rights activist and journalist in Belarus has been sentenced to five years in prison over his stance against the official results of an August 2020 presidential election that handed victory to authoritarian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The Minsk regional court sentenced Paval Vinahradau on March 16 after finding him guilty of spreading lies about the country's president online, inciting hatred, and organizing events that disrupted the social order. Vinahradau has criticized Lukashenka's grip on power for years.
Lukashenka has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1994, when he won his first presidential election.
Vinahradau harshly criticized the 2020 presidential elections and a brutal crackdown launched by Lukashenka's regime on protesters, activists, independent media, and democratic institutions that followed the disputed presidential poll. In 2010, Vinahradau was sentenced to four years in prison for taking part in public protests against the results of a presidential election that year, when Lukashenka was also declared the winner. He was released in 2011 following a mass amnesty announced by Lukashenka. Hundreds of Belarusians have faced trials linked to mass protests against Lukashenka over the results of the 2020 election, which they say was rigged. Much of the opposition leadership has been jailed or forced into exile. Several protesters have been killed and there have also been credible reports of torture during the widening security crackdown.