A court in Minsk has issued a verdict sentencing Eduard Babaryka, son of former presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka, to eight years in a high-security penal colony, according to a report by state-run news agency BelTA.
Prior to sentencing, state prosecutors requested that the court give 33-year-old Babaryka a ten-year sentence on charges of inciting “social hatred,” money laundering, and tax evasion. Babaryka spent three years in pre-trial detention without trial.
Viktar Babaryka, Eduard’s father, was detained in the summer of 2020 – at the height of the Belarusian presidential election campaign after collecting the necessary signatures for his candidacy. In order to qualify for registration, potential presidential candidates needed to submit 100,000 signatures. By mid-June, Babaryka's team had collected over 425,000, which were officially acknowledged as authentic by the Central Election Commission of Belarus.
Babaryka, a banker and philanthropist who formerly served as CEO of Belgazprombank, was then swiftly arrested on June 18, 2020, on charges of tax evasion and money laundering. Eduard Babaryka was detained along with his father.
The initiation of the criminal case and his arrest prevented Viktar Babaryka from standing up to Alexander Lukashenko in the Belarusian presidential elections. Belarusian election authorities rejected Babaryka’s candidacy on July 14. Amnesty International and other rights groups designated both men as political prisoners.
On July 6, 2021, Viktar Babaryka was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment after being found guilty of large-scale bribery and “legalizing funds obtained by criminal means.”
Following the declaration of Alexander Lukashenko as the winner of the August 2020 election, tens of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets in protest, claiming that the election had been rigged. These widespread demonstrations persisted for months, as the Belarusian people demanded the resignation of Lukashenko, who has held power since 1994, and called for new elections.