Belarus opposition figure Babaryko sentenced to 14 years in jail

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A court in Belarus on Tuesday sentenced one of Alexander Lukashenko’s leading critics to 14 years in prison on fraud charges.

“Viktor Babaryko was sentenced to 14 years in a maximum-security colony,” his supporters said, using the 57-year-old’s Twitter account.

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Former banker Babaryko was arrested in June last year ahead of a disputed presidential election that sparked nationwide demonstrations which gripped the ex-Soviet country for months.

Babaryko had planned to run in the presidential race and was considered one of the strongest opponents to incumbent Lukashenko, who has been in power for close to three decades.

Babaryko was accused of receiving bribes and “laundering funds obtained by criminal means” when he was head of Belgazprombank, the Belarusian branch of a bank belonging to Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Prosecutors had requested a 15-year sentence, the maximum possible punishment. Babaryko denied any wrongdoing throughout his trial.

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