Belarus sentences journalist to eight years for ‘state treason’

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader says Katerina Bakhvalova’s additional sentence is punishment for showing ‘the truth’.

Katerina Bakhvalova in a courtroom cage
Bakhvalova was arrested in November 2020 while reporting on anti-government protests [File: Stringer/AFP]

Belarus has sentenced a journalist, who covered protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, to an additional eight years in prison for “state treason”, according to the channel she worked for.

Katerina Bakhvalova – who used the pen name Katerina Andreyeva – was already serving a two-year sentence for “violating public order” and was due to be released in September.

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The 28-year-old was arrested in November 2020 with fellow journalist Daria Chultsova while filming one of the anti-government rallies that swept Belarus that year.

“Our colleague Katerina Andreyeva was sentenced to eight years in prison,” the Poland-based Belsat TV channel and media said on Telegram.

It said she was transferred from the prison colony where she was held in Gomel, southeastern Belarus, and brought to a pre-trial detention centre in February.

“For 55 days, her relatives did not know the details of the case,” Belsat said.

The Viasna rights group said on its website that her family was informed in April that she was given a new “state treason” charge.

Political prisoners

Viasna considers Bakhvalova to be one of 1,244 political prisoners in the country.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said the sentence was punishment for showing “the truth”.

“It makes me so angry to see the regime take revenge on those who dare to resist,” she said on Twitter. “She dared to show the truth about the regime’s brutality to the world.”

Lukashenko’s regime has orchestrated a brutal crackdown on any pockets of dissent after unprecedented protests swept Belarus in 2020.

The Belarus strongman, in power since 1994, relies on neighbouring Moscow for support. His country had served as a springboard for the Russian army to launch its assault on Ukraine in late February.

Source: News Agencies