US: Belarus death penalty plan shows Lukashenko ‘desperate to cling to power’

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The United States condemned Wednesday what it said were plans in Belarus to implement the death penalty against political opponents, calling it a desperate move by President Alexander Lukashenko to retain power.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a new law signed by Lukashenko to use the death penalty for “terrorist” acts was in fact aimed at pro-democracy activists and opponents of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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“The regime has levied politically motivated charges of ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’ against many of the more than 1,100 political prisoners and used such labels to detain tens of thousands more,” Blinken said in a statement.

“These actions are those of an authoritarian leader desperate to cling to power through fear and intimidation,” he said.

According to Russian news agencies Wednesday, Lukashenko has signed a law on the possibility of the death penalty for an “attempted terrorist act.”

On Wednesday, a Belarusian court in the city of Grodno started a closed-door hearing in the case against 12 activists accused of “preparing acts of terrorism”, according to Belarusian rights group Vyasna.

“The Lukashenko regime continues to repress, including through violence and these recent amendments to the criminal code, the pro-democracy and anti-war movements in Belarus,” said Blinken.

He called for the “unconditional” release of political prisoners and for the government to hold free and fair elections under international observation.

Read more: Belarus to deploy special forces to southern border near Ukraine

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