Minsk sustains sentence for Belarusian-Polish reporter

A Belarus court on Friday rejected an appeal by a jailed Polish-Belarusian journalist against his eight-year prison sentence for reporting critically on President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

Andrzej Poczobut, a 50-year-old correspondent for leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza and active member of the Polish minority in Belarus, was sentenced in February.

He had extensively reported on mass protests against Lukashenko and refused to leave the Moscow-allied country after authorities unleashed a historic crackdown on dissent.

Belarus’s Supreme Court said in a statement that the sentence was “left unchanged”.

“The verdict has come into force,” the court said.

Poczobut, who stood trial in his home city of Grodno near the Polish border, was found guilty of taking part in “actions harming national security” and “inciting hatred”.

Poland, Belarus’s western EU-member neighbor, has condemned the trial and called for his release.

After Poczobut’s appeal was rejected, Warsaw said it will slap new punitive measures against Lukashenko’s regime next week.

“On Monday, I will announce the decision to add to the sanctions list several hundred representatives of the Lukashenko regime responsible for political repression, including repression against Poles living in Belarus,” Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said on Twitter.

Since brutally putting down the 2020 protests, the Minsk regime has jailed hundreds and forced most critics into exile.

According to human rights group Viasna, there are currently 1,511 political prisoners in Belarus.

Poland has become a hub for exiled Belarusians and Minsk often singles out Warsaw as a particular threat.

Belarus became even more isolated after allowing the Kremlin to use its territory as a launchpad for Moscow’s Ukraine offensive.

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