Verdict Expected In Case Against Would-Be Belarusian Presidential Candidate Babaryka.

MINSK – A verdict in the case against Viktar Babaryka, a former Belarusian banker whose bid to challenge authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka in last year’s disputed election was halted by his arrest, is expected on July 6.
Prosecutor Syarhey Hirhel has asked the court in Minsk to convict Babaryka on charges of bribe-taking and money laundering and sentence him to 15 years in prison.
Hirhel also asked Judge Ihar Lyubavitski on June 22 to sentence the other co-defendants in the case to prison terms between three years and six years. Babaryka told the court during his final statement on June 28 that the corruption charges against him were fabricated and reiterated his innocence.
"I cannot admit guilt for a crime that I did not commit...I'm not ashamed of anything, because I didn't do anything illegal, not anything even close to something illegal...I'm confident that I was always fair and never conducted any activities that violated the laws of Belarus," Babaryka said. He added that his children said "the most important words" to him before the session: "We do not feel ashamed for our dad."
People in the courtroom burst into applause after Babaryka's statement. Unlike previous sessions, the public was allowed to attend the last hearing. The seven other defendants in the high-profile case also gave their final statements. Babaryka, a former senior manager at the Russian-owned Belgazprombank, was arrested in June last year after he announced his intention to run for president. Three days before the arrest, Belarusian authorities took control of the bank and detained several top executives on charges of tax evasion and money laundering. The trial is being held in the premises of the Moscow district court in Minsk by judges from the country's Supreme Court, a move that has been criticized by Babaryka and his defense team, who said that would deny them any chance of appeal in case of a guilty verdict. Lukashenka was declared the victor of the August 2020 election, triggering protests by tens of thousands of Belarusians who say the vote was rigged. The demonstrations lasted for months as Belarusians demanded Lukashenka, in power since 1994, step down and hold fresh elections.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service

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