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Belarus implements death penalty for attempted terrorism

Belarus implements death penalty for attempted terrorism
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a law making those convicted of attempted terrorism eligible for the death penalty. File Photo by Amanda Voisard/United Nations

May 18 (UPI) -- Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a law Wednesday making people who attempt an act of terrorism eligible for the death penalty, a move critics say targets Belarusians trying to help Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

The new law will go into effect May 29, the Kyiv Post reported. Previously, only people convicted of committing an act of terrorism could face a firing squad.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Belarus has used the "politically motivated" charges of terrorism and extremism against hundreds of political prisoners -- including those not guilty of violent crimes.

"These are citizens of Belarus seeking to freely exercise their fundamental freedoms -- peaceful protesters, civil society members, journalists, political opponents and those arrested for opposing Russia's unjustified war against Ukraine and Belarus's enabling role in it," he said. "These citizens now also face the threat of the death penalty."

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Blinken said Lukashenko's actions are that of "an authoritarian leader desperate to cling to power through fear and intimidation." He called for the release of all political prisoners in the country and an end to government violence against civilians.

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The Belarusian Interior Ministry said the new law is in response to the so-called "rail partisans' movement" in which rail workers and civilians have levied attacks on railway lines and infrastructure to assist Ukraine.

Russian troops have been stationed in Belarus, some as part of the war in Ukraine. The two countries are close allies and Belarus is one of the few European countries giving support to Moscow in the conflict.

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