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Belarus has expanded the death penalty law to include ‘attempting terrorism’, in a move that could dramatically increase government pressure on the country’s embattled opposition

LVIV, Ukraine — Belarus on Wednesday broadened its death penalty law to include “attempted terrorism,” in a move that could dramatically increase government pressure on the country’s embattled opposition.

Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed a law authorizing the death penalty for an attempted terrorist attack. Previously, he could not be pronounced for “an unfinished crime”. Major human rights groups and opposition politicians in Belarus have spoken out against the law.

Belarus is the only country in Europe where the death penalty is still in force.

The new law amends the Criminal Code of Belarus and applies in cases of plotted acts of international terrorism and murders of government officials or public figures. It was approved by the country’s parliament.

Belarusian authorities began bringing terrorism charges against opposition figures after Lukashenko won his sixth term in a disputed presidential election in 2020, sparking a wave of massive street protests that drew up to 200,000 people.

Lukashenko’s government responded with a violent crackdown, arresting more than 35,000 people and brutally deporting thousands. Key opposition figures have either been imprisoned or forced to leave the country.

In March 2021, the Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal investigation for preparing a terrorist act against opposition leaders Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Pavel Latushka and others.

The latest terrorism arrests involved so-called “railway supporters” suspected of sabotaging Belarusian railways to prevent the supply of Russian weapons to front lines in Ukraine.

“The introduction of the death penalty for ‘attempted terrorism’ is a direct threat to activists who oppose the dictator and the war (in Ukraine),” Tsikhanouskaya told the AP. “I call on the international community to react and consider all instruments to prevent political killings in Belarus.”

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee, human rights center Viasna and human rights group Against the Death Penalty issued a joint statement noting that the new amendments “create preconditions for serious abuses and arbitrary application of the death penalty”.

ABC News

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