A Belarusian blogger has been sentenced to three years in prison on charge of “insulting” Alexander Lukashenko by writing in a post that the country’s authoritarian ruler was “illegitimate” amid a wave of protests against the results of a presidential election last year that opposition figures say was rigged.
A court in the western town of Shchuchyn pronounced its ruling against Vadzim Ermashuk, also known in his posts on social media as Vadimati, on December 21.
The 36-year-old blogger, who was also charged with desecrating the flag for a post in which he called it a “rag,” rejected the charges and refused to testify in the courtroom or answer questions from the judge.
Ermashuk was initially detained in August of this year and sentenced to several days in jail on hooliganism charges for protesting. He was not released after serving his sentence as prosecutors brought new charges against him for his posts.
Ermashuk is one of dozens in Belarus who have faced trials in recent months as authorities brutally suppress dissent in any form since the disputed presidential election in August 2020.
Rights activists and opposition politicians say the poll was rigged to extend Lukashenko’s 26-year rule. Thousands have been detained during countrywide protests and there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Several people have died during the crackdown.
Many of Belarus’s opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, while Lukashenko has refused to negotiate with the opposition.
The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenko as the winner of the vote and imposed several rounds of sanctions on him and his regime, citing election fraud and the police crackdown.