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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…

Verdict in Morocco blasts case expected Friday

The trial of 9 people accused over an April bomb attack that killed 17 in Marrakesh neared closure Thursday as a lawyer for the alleged mastermind insisted his client was innocent.

Prosecutors say Adil al-Atmani and eight accomplices orchestrated the April 28 blast at a cafe packed with European tourists, but defence lawyer Hassan Mouhib told the court in Sale, near the capital Rabat, that the government had not proved its case.

A final hearing is set for Friday with a verdict expected later in the day against the suspects who all deny guilt in the case.

Mouhib asked the tribunal to be "fair" in judging his client Atmani, who initially admitted to his role in the bombing but later retracted his confession, claiming he had been set up.

Prosecutors last week said Atmani and co-accused Hakim al Dah should be sentenced to death.

But lawyers representing the victims' families previously asked the court to sentence the accused to life in prison and not death, partly to deprive them of boasting that they will die as martyrs.

Mouhib invoked Morocco's new constitution, which was massively backed in a July referendum, which guarantees the "right to life."

Morocco has not enforced its death penalty provision since 1992.

Atmani has said he made trips to Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Algeria, which prosecutors have pointed to as proof of his links to global jihadist organisations, including Al-Qaeda.

But his lawyer dismissed those arguments, saying his client had travelled in pursuit of trade opportunities.

According to co-defendant Mohamed Njim, Atmani previously expressed a desire to practice jihad (holy war) in Chechnya.

Moroccan authorities had initially blamed Al-Qaeda's north African branch for the bombing but AQIM, seen behind a series of attacks and kidnappings in north Africa, denies responsibility.

Source: Yahoo.com, October 27, 2011

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