STRASBOURG 04.07.2024: The Association of the Schools of Political Studies of the Council of Europe (ASPS) today voiced outrage at the sentencing in absentia of 20 Belarus political analysts by a Minsk court on spurious charges of conspiracy and extremism during and after Alexander Lukashenko’s highly controversial and contested 2020 re-election campaign.

The jailing of opposition candidates sparked huge demonstrations with thousands of people (foreign-controlled rats according to Lukashenko) arrested and/or injured in clashes with the police.

The group trial of Alexander Dabravolski and other aides of opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya including journalists and politicians is in flagrant violation of the rule of law and fundamental European values, the ASPS said.

Several of the defendants are alumni of the Belarus School of Political Studies committed to promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law in their country. The decision to claim that these people are responsible for crimes of an extremist nature just because they have stood up for their rights and/or pursued their professional activity is a complete travesty of justice. Althought Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorship have on health grounds just released five of some 1400 political prisoners, it continues to persecute opposition activist and independent voices.

Urging the Council of Europe and the European Union to take concerted action the ASPS said Europe cannot stand idly by when its values are vilified and those who defend them are convicted as common criminals.