A court in Minsk sentenced an investigative journalist to eight years in prison on Wednesday, the reclusive country’s Belarusian Association of Journalists said in a statement.
The court sentenced Sergei Satsuk, the editor of the Ezhednevnik news website, for “inciting hatred”, “official misconduct” and “accepting bribes”, the press advocacy group said in a statement.
The 58-year-old was detained in December 2021 after authorities searched his home and office.
He is the latest journalist to be jailed in the authoritarian country, which has been ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994.
Satsuk’s colleagues say he is being punished for investigating corruption scandals that rocked the Belarusian healthcare system, as well as for having published stories about the falsification of Covid cases.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck Belarus, Lukashenko downplayed the dangers of the virus and suggested it was not real.
“The Belarusian Association of Journalists believes investigators and the court arbitrarily prosecuted Satsuk in revenge for his high-profile investigations,” the group said on its website, calling for Satsuk’s release.
The prominent Viasna rights group, whose founder was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year, has recognized Satsuk as a political prisoner. It says there are currently 1,344 political prisoners in Belarus.
Lukashenko has orchestrated a major crackdown on remaining pockets of dissent in Belarus after suppressing unprecedented protests against his rule in 2020.
The Kremlin ally welcomed Russian troops on his territory late last year, allowing Moscow’s forces to launch part of its military operation in Ukraine from Belarus.