Belarus anarchists given 20-year jail terms

A Belarus court on Wednesday handed two-decade prison sentences to a group of anarchists on terrorism and illegal arms charges after a closed-door trial in the authoritarian country.

Sergei Romanov and Igor Olinevich were sentenced to 20 years in prison, while Dmitry Rezanovich and Dmitry Dubovsky were handed 19 and 18 years respectively.

They were accused of setting fire to law enforcement cars and security service offices in the eastern Gomel province.

The four anarchists were arrested in October last year near the Belarus-Ukraine border. They have since been held in a prison run by the KGB security service.

Olinevich was handed an eight-year sentence in 2011 after being convicted of attacking government buildings and the Russian embassy in Minsk with Molotov cocktails.

He was released early, in 2015, following an amnesty.

Belarus — ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994 — is in the midst of a years-long crackdown on the opposition following unprecedented anti-regime protests in the summer of 2020.

The reclusive country last week sentenced opposition politician Sergei Tikhanovsky to 18 years behind bars after he galvanised a massive protest movement against Lukashenko.

According to local rights group Viasna, there are currently 942 political prisoners in Belarus.