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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.
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China | 'Coronavirus-rage' killer who stabbed two officials to death at a quarantine checkpoint is executed

Ma Jianguo
Killer Ma Jianguo, 24, attacked the pair with a folding knife in Yunnan in February. The victims were trying to prevent him from driving past a blockade with a van.

A Chinese man who stabbed two officials to death at a coronavirus travel checkpoint was executed on Thursday, the country's Supreme People's Court has revealed.

Ma Jianguo was believed to be the first criminal in China who has been executed for an epidemic-related offence. 

A local court in southern China carried out the execution after rejecting Jianguo's appeal against his death penalty in March. 

The Supreme People's Court said the circumstances of Jianguo's case were 'particularly vile', and its social damage, consequences and crime were 'extremely serious'.

In a public notice, the Supreme Court said it issued the execution order to the Intermediate People's Court of Honghe Prefecture, which fulfilled the instruction today.

Jianguo was driving a small van with friends to a village in rural Yunnan in February - said to be on his way to a karaoke party - when he encountered a barricade blocking his path.

The local authority had set up the barricade to control passing vehicles the day before. 

Jianguo's passenger and fellow villager, Ma Kelong, tried to remove the barrier which sparked a dispute with the officials manning it.

One official, Zhang Guizhou, then tried to film Kelong with his mobile phone at which point Jianguo became enraged. 

He then took out a folding knife and repeatedly stabbed Guizhou in the abdomen. 

As Li Minguo, another official, rushed over to intervene, Jianguo stabbed him in the abdomen multiple times. 

The Intermediate People's Court of Honghe Prefecture found Jianguo guilty of intentional homicide in March and sentenced him to death, a statement said.

At the time of trial, the court said that Jianguo had been imprisoned for intentionally causing injuries to others and released from prison less than five years before. 

Although Jianguo admitted his guilt, his subjectivity was 'extremely evil', the details of his crime were horrendous and the consequences of the case were 'particularly serious', the court explained of its ruling. 

Footage released by the Yunnan legal authority on social media shows Jianguo standing trial and being handed the capital punishment.

Jianguo appealed against the ruling after the first trial, but the Supreme People's Court of Honghe Prefecture rejected his appeal on March 30.

When the February murders took place, tens of millions of Chinese were under complete lockdown at home as the country grappled with a worsening coronavirus outbreak. 

'During a grade-one major public health emergency response in Yunnan province, Ma Jianguo refused to abide by epidemic prevention and control policies, as well as traffic control measures,' the Supreme Court ruled.

Since the coronavirus epidemic erupted late last year in the central city of Wuhan, China has charged hundreds of people with offences related to the crisis.

They include spreading 'rumours' about the contagion, concealing an infection, and not complying with epidemic prevention guidelines.

In Beijing alone, 113 people have been charged with epidemic-related crimes since a fresh outbreak emerged in early June, officials said this week.

Chinese authorities have used the vague 'rumour-mongering' charge to silence whistle-blowers.

This includes Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who alerted colleagues to the virus in late December but was reprimanded by local authorities along with seven others.

Li later died of the disease.

Source: dailymail.co.uk, Tracy You, Alice Cachia, Agence France-Presse, July 9, 2020

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