Aliaksandr Lyubyanchuk

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Belarusian journalist Aliaksandr Lyubyanchuk is serving a prison sentence of three years after being convicted in October 2022 of participating in an extremist group. He was detained in May 2022.

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 reports by Belarusian human rights group Viasna and local advocacy and trade group Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). Both Viasna and BAJ are banned in Belarus.

On October 14, 2022, 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, 2022, 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, 2022, 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. 

On January 24, 2023, the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld Lyubyanchuk’s sentence, BAJ reported.

On February 17, the Belarusian Ministry of Interior added him to its list of people allegedly  involved in extremist activity, according to Viasna. 

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, 2022. 

On February 2, 2023, Lyubyanchuk was transferred to Prison No. 15 in the eastern city of Mahilou. Soon after his transfer, the prison administration banned him from receiving packages and visits for three months for violating "internal regulations," according to Viasna. 

In September 2023, BAJ reported that there was little public information about Lyubyanchuk’s state in prison, but that he “does not lose his cheerfulness.”

In October 2023, CPJ messaged Lyubyanchuk’s brother Vitaly via messaging app to ask about the journalist’s health but did not receive any response. In November 2023, a source close to the journalist told Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian-language service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, that Lyubyanchuk had a spine condition that had worsened in detention.

In October 2023, CPJ called the Belarusian Ministry of Interior for comment, but nobody answered the phone. CPJ emailed the Belarusian Investigative Committee but did not receive any replies.