Belarus leader Lukashenko approves wider death penalty use

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia February 18, 2022

(Reuters) - Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has approved changes to the country's criminal code that would make attempted acts of terrorism punishable by the death penalty, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday.

Ex-Soviet Belarus already had the death penalty for acts of terrorism that cause loss of life, for brutal murders and multiple murders.

Belarus' parliament backed expanding the death penalty's use after activists tried to sabotage parts of the railway network to make it harder for Russia to deploy forces into Ukraine for its invasion.

Russia used Belarus, a close ally, as a staging ground to launch its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. Minsk denies involvement in the conflict but acknowledges that its territory was used for the invasion.

Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti said that a document on a Belarusian national legal portal showed Lukashenko had signed the amendments allowing the death penalty for attempted acts of terrorism.

The new rules enter force within 10 days of their official publication.

Reuters could not open the legal portal's website on Wednesday.

A crackdown on mass anti-government protests in Belarus in 2020 has sometimes seen people charged with terrorism for crimes that might earlier have been considered hooliganism. One person was charged with terrorism for pouring red paint over the car of a judge and another for throwing a rock at the window of a prosecutor.

(Writing by Alexander Winning, Editing by William Maclean)

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