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

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…

U.S. Supreme Court sends much-needed message to Alabama about how it treats poor defendants charged with capital crimes

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the state of Alabama at least two messages last week when justices ruled against the state in the case of Death Row inmate Cory Maples, who missed a deadline to appeal after his lawyers dropped his case without telling him.

First, the high court made clear the state and courts were wrong in denying Maples his day in court. Maples missed a 42-day window to file an appeal after a state court judge ruled against his claims of ineffectiveness of counsel and other problems at trial. But the missed filing was through no fault of his own. Two pro bono lawyers had abandoned Maples' case without notifying him or the state. Copies of the trial court's order sent to them at their old law firm were returned unopened to the court clerk, who did nothing.

"Abandoned by counsel, Maples was left unrepresented at a critical time for his state postconviction petition, and he lacked a clue of any need to protect himself pro se," the court said in its 7-2 ruling. "In these circumstances, no just system would lay the default at Maples' death-cell door."

But Alabama's system did blame Maples. Which brings us to the court's second, and more important message: Our state's system of capital punishment is not a just system.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who delivered the opinion, made that clear in her criticism of how the state provides -- and in some cases doesn't provide -- lawyers for poor defendants charged with capital crimes.

Source: Editorial, Birmingham News Editorial Board, January 23, 2012

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