Belarus jails Eduard Babaryko, son of jailed rival to Lukashenko

Viktor och Eduard Babaryko

A Belarusian opposition activist who was arrested while managing his father's campaign for president in 2020 has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Charges of tax evasion and involvement in riot planning, which were widely believed to be politically motivated, were denied by Eduard Babaryko.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the leader of Belarus' exiled opposition, alleged that the government was seeking retaliation for his father's election campaign.

On account of corruption, Viktor Babaryko received a 14-year prison sentence in 2021.

Since the former banker was transferred from a jail cell to a hospital in April of last year, there has been no word on his health.

According to Pavel Sapelka of the human rights organization Spring 96, no defendant in a "politically motivated criminal case" is immune from receiving a lengthy prison term, so Mr. Babaryko's lengthy sentence was not unexpected.

He added that "if the accused is the son of one of Lukashenko's most successful rivals in the presidential elections," that is especially the case.

Two months before Alexander Lukashenko was declared the victor in a vote that was widely denounced as being rigged by international observers, the pair were both arrested on June 18, 2020.

Mr. Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994, but as protests erupted following the election, he was forced to depend more and more on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Eduard's girlfriend, Alexandra Zvereva, who spoke to BBC Russian, he was imprisoned as retaliation by Belarus's president simply because Viktor Babaryko dared to run for office.

When parents are made to feel accountable for their children's actions—especially when there was nothing wrong—she said, "This seems to me to be the most painful punishment for parents.".

Viktor Babaryko is one of several well-known political prisoners in Belarus who have not spoken to their families in several months.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the leader of the opposition, claimed that she last heard from her husband Sergei in March.

When he ran for president, Mr. Tikhanovsky was a well-known YouTube blogger, but he was arrested five months prior to the 2020 election, much earlier than Eduard Babaryko and his father.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya accepted the video released on Telegram on Wednesday as proof of her husband being alive
The video that was posted on Telegram on Wednesday was acknowledged by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as evidence that her husband was still alive.

Later, Ms. Tikhanovskaya ran for office herself and declared victory, but she was forced to leave the country after the incumbent declared victory by a landslide and brutally suppressed protesters and opponents.

Without offering any proof, she claimed that late on Monday she had received a "strange and horrifying message" from an unidentified person claiming that her husband had passed away in Zhodino prison.

Pro-Lukashenko activists posted CCTV prison video with the date and time 5 July by Wednesday afternoon. The video appeared to show Sergei Tikhanovsky performing neck stretches and eating inside a cell.

According to Spring 96, Mr. Tikhanovsky was unable to meet with his family or lawyer to discuss his whereabouts, and the rights organization claimed that the ominous message his wife received was likely the result of a prank involving Belarusian secret services.

Numerous other political prisoners have remained silent, including Maria Kolesnikova, who also participated in Viktor Babaryko's election campaign.

When her candidate was detained, she joined Ms. Tikhanovskaya's team and refused to leave Belarus after the election, emerging as one of the protests' faces.

Although Ms. Tikhanovskaya expressed happiness to see her husband "alive and strong," she asserted that it was time to reveal the identities of the other political prisoners so that their attorneys could visit them.

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