On top of the two years she is currently serving for covering the 2020 protests, Belarus Journalist Katerina Bakhvalova (pen name Katerina Andreyeva) has been sentenced to another eight years in prison, her media outlet, Poland-based Belsat, announced on Wednesday.
“Our colleague Katerina Andreyeva was sentenced to eight years in prison,” the Belsat team wrote on Telegram.
— Belsat in English (@Belsat_Eng) July 13, 2022
This time, Bakhvalova was charged with “state treason,” with the court finding her guilty of “handing over state secrets” according to Belarus state news agency BelTa.
Now 28, Bakhvalova was first arrested in November 2020 while filming the 2020 mass opposition protests in Belarus. Accused of being involved in organizing the protests, she received a two-year sentence for “public order violation” and was due to be released this September.
Soon after her first conviction, Belsat media was declared an “extremist” organization by Belarus, Bakhvalova a political prisoner by Belarus human rights center Viasna.
According to the NGO, Belarus currently has 1,244 political prisoners roaming its jails, many of whom, like Bakhvalova, were imprisoned during or following the 2020 protests.
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Bakhvalova’s second sentence, Viasna points out, came after a trial behind closed doors in April 2022. But all that was known then was that she was given a new “state treason” charge.
“For 55 days, her relatives did not know the details of the case,” Belsat revealed, adding that already in February, Bakhvalova was transferred from the penal colony in Gomel to a pre-trial detention.
Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya sees the sentence as punishment for revealing “the truth,” tweeting:
It makes me so angry to see the regime take revenge on those who dare to resist. Journalist Katsiaryna Andreeva just received 8 years in prison in a closed trial, she has already been held for over 19 months. She dared to show the truth about the regime's brutality to the world. pic.twitter.com/WmIJE9AXBI
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) July 13, 2022
Amnesty International has meanwhile condemned the new verdict as “terrible and unjust,” describing Bakhvalova as a “courageous” journalist and the trial as a “political sham.”
“Katerina Andreeva and other critics of the Belarusian authorities, who have been imprisoned simply for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, must be released immediately,” Amnesty’s Director for Europe and Central Asia Marie Struthers said.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: A woman with a flag of Belarussia at the 2020 protests in Minsk, Belarus, September 28, 2020. Featured Photo Credit: Jana Shnipelson.