(New York, NY) — A Belarusian court sentenced Ihar Losik, a blogger and  RFE/RL journalist, to 15 years imprisonment. PEN America decried the verdict, based on fraudulent and politically motivated charges, as an egregious affront to justice.

“Ihar Losik is guilty of nothing more than exercising his fundamental right to freedom of expression,” said PEN America’s Eurasia Director Polina Sadovskaya. “At just 29 years old, Ihar represents the demand of young Belarusians for democratic transformation and embodies their energy and passion to build a better future for their country. That is why Lukashenka’s illegitimate authoritarian regime is desperate to silence him. PEN America calls for his immediate unconditional release and the release of over 900 political prisoners held by the Lukashenka regime.”

Ihar was arrested in June 2020 prior to the rigged presidential elections, which gave rise to mass protests across the country. While in detention, he has faced severe physical and psychological pressures that led him to two hunger strikes and a suicide attempt, including putting him in one prison cell with psychologically unhealthy people. Ihar’s sentencing comes amidst a raft of other politically motivated sentences handed to leading independent voices in Belarus. Among them is another blogger and presidential candidate Siarhei Tsikhanouski, the husband of exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhaouskaya.

PEN America monitors threats to free expression in Eurasia among artists, writers, and journalists. Read more about our past and present advocacy campaigns here.