Belarusian journalist Aliaksandr Lyubyanchuk is serving a prison sentence of three years after being convicted in October 2022 of participating in an extremist group.
On May 26, 2022, law enforcement authorities in the western Belarusian village of Krivichy detained Lyubyanchuk, a former journalist with the Poland-based independent online television station Belsat TV, and took him to a pretrial detention center in Minsk, the capital, according to a Telegram post by Belarusian human rights group Viasna and a statement by local advocacy and trade group Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). Both Viasna and BAJ are banned in Belarus but continue to operate unofficially.
On October 14, BAJ reported that Lyubyanchuk was charged with “participating in an extremist formation” under Article 361-1, Part 3, of the Belarusian criminal code.
On October 27, the Minsk City Court convicted Lyubyanchuk and sentenced him to three years in prison, BAJ reported. His closed-door trial lasted three days, according to BAJ.
According to the verdict, which was announced publicly, Lyubyanchuk was sentenced for his collaboration with Belsat TV, BAJ deputy director Barys Haretski told CPJ in a phone interview. On May 7, authorities in Minsk saw Lyubyanchuk on CCTV as he went to film the funeral of former Belarusian leader Stanislau Shushkevich for Belsat TV, Haretski said.
In 2020, Lyubyanchuk was detained several times while “performing his professional duties,” Belsat TV reported.
Authorities labeled Belsat TV as “extremist” in July 2021, according to news reports, and blocked its website and social media accounts within Belarus.
Lyubyanchuk’s health deteriorated after his detention, Belsat TV reported on June 5. BAJ reported on September 26 that he was doing well, citing his relatives.
On November 15, Lyubyanchuk’s brother Vitaly posted on Facebook that the journalist had been moved to Penal Colony No. 4 in the eastern city of Mahilou.
In September 2022, CPJ called the Ministry of Interior’s press service, but nobody answered the phone. CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee but did not receive any replies. CPJ emailed Belsat TV but did not receive any reply.