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…

Egypt executes 7 convicted of killing police officer

Egypt flag
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt executed seven people convicted of killing a police officer in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, after a trial that was “marred by serious allegations of torture,” an international rights groups said Wednesday.

The defendants were accused of killing the officer and the attempted killing of another person during a fight in November 2013. 

A criminal court sentenced them to death, and the country’s highest criminal appeals court upheld the verdict in 2018, Amnesty International said.

The police officer was shot to death while trying to break up a fight in Ismailia, according to court documents. The accused also allegedly tried to kill a civilian and seized the officer’s weapon before fleeing.

London-based Amnesty International condemned the executions as “shocking and cruel.” It said in a series of tweets that the trial was “marred by serious allegations of torture and other grave due process violations.”

Three of the convicted appeared with visible bruises on their faces in a televised confession on Nov. 26, 2013, five days after the police officer’s killing and before their trial even began “in blatant disregard of their right not to incriminate themselves,” the group said.

Amnesty International said it opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, calling it a “cruel and inhuman punishment.”

The state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported that the seven were executed Monday in a Cairo prison.

The Egyptian Front for Human Rights, a local group, said its tally shows Egypt executed 34 people in the first six months of this year.

Among them was one of Egypt's most high-profile militant leaders. Hisham el-Ashmawi, a former Egyptian special forces officer, was hanged in March, according to the military, after his conviction for his role in planning dozens of deadly attacks on security forces.

In June, authorities hanged a Libyan militant convicted of plotting an attack that killed at least 16 police officers in 2017.

Eight suspected militants were executed in February after their conviction of involvement in attacks on two churches in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta. At least 44 people were killed in the April 2017 bombings.

Islamic militants have stepped up attacks since the military ousted an elected Islamist president after big protests against his divisive rule in 2013. 

An Islamic State affiliate based in the northern Sinai Peninsula has repeatedly targeted security forces and the Christian minority.

Source: The Associated Press, S. Magdy, July 30, 2020

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