Belarus jails Lukashenko rival in 'sham' trial

A court in Belarus has jailed former presidential contender Viktor Babariko for 14 years.

It convicted him on Tuesday (July 6) on corruption charges he denied, sparking condemnation from the West and the exiled opposition.

Babariko was arrested last June. Before that, polls suggested he was the main rival of veteran President Alexander Lukashenko ahead of an election last August.

One which the embattled opposition says was rigged to prolong Lukashenko's rule.

In power since 1994, Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory and a new presidential term, sparking the biggest protests in the history of Belarus, an ex-Soviet republic backed by Moscow.

Ahead of Tuesday's ruling, Babariko's allies said the charges against him were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a protest leader who fled Belarus amid a post-election crackdown, called it an 'insane term' for a man who 'woke the country from a long sleep'.

The U.S. embassy in Minsk said Lukashenko would stop at nothing to keep a grip on power, calling the court system 'a cruel sham'.

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