Belarusian court upholds prison sentence for Polish minority activist
The Belarusian Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal by Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and Polish minority leader, against an eight-year prison sentence.
"The ruling issued by the district court in Grodno on February 8, 2023, has remained unchanged, and Andrzej Poczobut's appeal has been rejected," the Supreme Court press services wrote in a statement following the trial which had been held behind closed doors.
"The verdict is final," the statement added.
A well-known journalist in Belarus and a long-term correspondent for Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, 49-year-old Poczobut was also an activist for the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), a Polish minority organisation that has been de-legalised by the Belarusian authorities.
He was found guilty in February of "intentional actions aimed at inciting hostility and hatred on national, religious and social grounds."
Poland responded by demanding his unconditional release while accusing the Belarusian regime of fabricating the charges.
Internationally recognised as a political prisoner, other countries have joined Poland in calling for his freedom.
Poczobut's conviction has darkened Warsaw's relationship with Minsk and led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions between the two countries, and the imposition of border restrictions.
A day after Poczobut's sentence was announced, Poland closed the vital Bobrowniki crossing with Belarus and followed up with further transport restrictions, saying they would be lifted if Poczobut was released.