A Belarusian court on Wednesday sentenced journalist Katerina Pakhvalova to eight years and three months in prison for “treason against the state” in a secret trial, the official Belta news agency reported.
Previously, the opposition journalist Belsat, who worked for her before her arrest, had reported an eight-year prison sentence. The young woman was already serving a two-year prison sentence in connection with another case.
His trial took place behind closed doors in the town of Gomel (south). No information was filtered on the content of the treason charges. The journalist’s lawyer had to sign a confidentiality agreement that prevented him from even informing his client’s relatives.
The Belta Agency did not provide any details about the facts against which the journalist is accused.
The article of the Criminal Code on the basis of which it was ruled punishes the transfer of state secrets to foreign bodies, espionage, or even cooperation with foreign entities with the aim of undermining the security of Belarus.
The 28-year-old used Andreeva as her pseudonym in her work.
She was arrested in mid-November 2020, in the midst of a historic protest movement in Belarus against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, which was considered fraudulent.
She was arrested by police in Minsk while filming a demonstration in honor of artist Roman Bondarenko, who died three days ago when police arrested him.
She had been accused of organizing a riot, and then in February 2021 she was sentenced to two years in prison along with one of her fellow journalists, Daria Chultsova.
Both women worked for the opposition media Belsat, based in neighboring Poland. In July 2021, Belsat was declared an “extremist” by Belarusian justice.
“I am outraged to see how the regime is taking revenge on those who dared to resist,” exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikanovskaya said on Twitter. She felt that Katerina Pakhvalova was punished for “showing the world the truth about the brutality” of the authorities.
The regime of Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994 and with the support of the Kremlin, has unabashedly suppressed the 2020 protest movement by handing down prison sentences to dozens of opponents and journalists.
According to the non-governmental organization Viasna, which has targeted itself with repression, 1,244 people are currently imprisoned in Belarus for political reasons.