Belarus' authoritarian leader tightens control over the country's religious groups

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has signed a law into effect that significantly tightens control over various religious denominations and organizations.

The law, published on the presidential website this week, mandates that all denominations and religious groups reapply for state registration, which authorities reserve the right to refuse.

It’s the latest step in Lukashenko’s a crackdown on dissent, which intensified after a disputed presidential election in 2020 gave the authoritarian leader a sixth term in office. The government arrested more than 35,000 protesters in demonstrations that denounced the vote as rigged, and thousands of them were beaten in custody. Many were forced to leave the country to escape prosecution.

Since 2022, involvement in unregistered organizations became a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison.

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