The last country in Europe to still apply the death penalty, Belarus introduced it for the preparation of an attack or the “attempted act of terrorism”, according to a decree published on Wednesday May 18, cited by Russian agencies. “Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed the law providing for the possibility of the death penalty for an attempted act of terrorism,” according to RIA Novosti. Until now, only those who committed such an act were liable to execution.

Since the vast protest movement in 2020 against the re-election of Mr. Lukashenko, in power since 1994, many opponents have been charged and arrested for attempted or preparing an act of terrorism, including the leader of the opposition forced to exile by the repression of protest, Svetlana Tsikhanovska├»a. In March 2021, the Belarusian prosecutor’s office announced that Ms. Tsikhanovskaya was herself under investigation for “preparing an act of terrorism in an organized gang”, according to the Belarusian state agency Belta.

According to the Russian news agency Interfax, the text notes that no “preparation or attempt” of a crime is punishable by death, with the exception of those qualified as “terrorists”. Belarus carries out several executions each year and shoots its convicts.

Considerable screw turn

Since the August 2020 presidential election, during which Ms. Tsikhanovskaïa received surprise popular support, mobilizing huge crowds to denounce a vote rigged by authoritarian President Lukashenko, the power has given a considerable turn of the screw, arresting hundreds of people and forcing many opposition leaders or simple protesters into exile. Figures of the movement have been sentenced to heavy prison terms, NGOs and independent media have been banned and accused of extremism.

The trial of twelve opposition activists began on Wednesday in the city of Grodno; their alleged leader, Nikolai Avtoukhovitch, is notably accused of an act of terrorism and of preparing an act of terrorism in an organized gang, according to the human rights NGO Viasna, several of whose members and its leader are also in prison. According to this source, the investigators accuse the group of having set fire to a car and the house of a policeman, then to have exploded the car of another.