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The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

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Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
Tens of thousands have rallied across Belarus in some of the country’s biggest opposition protests in a decade, amid mounting frustration over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, combined with grievances about the economy. Referring to Lukashenko, protestors chanted ‘stop the cockroach’ and held placards reading ‘change!’.
“For the first time in his 26-year rule, Lukashenko knows the majority don’t support him,” says Aleksandr Feduta, a former aide to the incumbent, who was i…

Texas: Forensic Team Reviews Death Penalty Case

A state forensics panel on Friday assigned 4 of its members to review the arson case that resulted in the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of killing his 3 children.

In a report prepared last year for the Texas Forensic Science Commission, fire expert Craig Beyler found fault in the investigation that led to Willingham's conviction. But in September, 2 days before the commission was to discuss the report and question Beyler, Gov. Rick Perry replaced 3 of its members, including its chairman.

The new chairman, John Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney, canceled that meeting.

Without Beyler's finding, prosecutors have admitted it would have been hard to win a death sentence against Willingham.

The investigative panel was confirmed Friday at a commission meeting in Irving. It will include Bradley, Fort Worth defense attorney Lance Evans, Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani and Sarah Kerrigan, a forensic toxicologist and director of a crime lab at Sam Houston State University.

Like Bradley, Evans and Peerwani were appointed to the commission late last year. Kerrigan has been on the commission since 2007.

During Friday's meeting, Bradley initially said Kerrigan would not be serving on the investigative panel because of personal issues and appointed Evans to replace her. However, at Evans' suggestion, the panel was expanded to 4 members and Kerrigan agreed to stay on.

"Obviously, everybody is aware of the public perception regarding this investigation," Evans said, explaining why he believed a 4-person panel would be best.

Willingham, an unemployed mechanic from Corsicana, was executed in 2004 after being convicted of capital murder for setting a 1991 house fire that killed his 3 daughters.

Beyler said in his report that the investigation of the fire was so seriously flawed that its conclusion of arson can't be supported. The report said the fire investigation didn't adhere to the standards of care in place at the time, or to current standards.

Source: Associated Press, April 24, 2010

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