Belarus: several opponents sentenced to terms of up to eighteen years in prison

A Belarusian court sentenced, Tuesday, December 14, several detractors of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko – including Sergei Tsikhanovsky, the husband of the opponent Svetlana Tsikhanovskaïa – to heavy prison terms. Mr. Tsikhanovski, a 43-year-old video blogger, was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for “organizing massive disturbances”, “inciting hatred in society”, “disturbing public order” and “obstructing the public. Election Commission ”.

Another major opposition figure, Mikola Statkevich, 65, a former 2010 presidential candidate who had already spent several years in prison, was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. Other co-defendants, Artiom Sakov and Dmitri Popov, who worked for Mr. Tsikhanovski, will have to spend sixteen years behind bars. Vladimir Tsyganovitch, Youtubeur critic of power, and Igor Lossik, opposition journalist aged 29, each receive fifteen years in prison.

Forced into exile since the summer of 2020 for having inspired an unprecedented wave of protest in her country, Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya, 39, immediately denounced this very heavy verdict. “My husband, Sergei Tsikhanovsky, is sentenced to eighteen years of imprisonment. The dictator [Alexandre Loukachenko] takes public revenge on its strongest opponents ”, reacted on Twitter Mme Tsikhanovskaya. Then she promised to continue her fight. “We will not stop”, she warned, noting that “The whole world is watching” the repression orchestrated in Belarus.

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“Imaginary and politically motivated” accusations

Later, in an interview with Radio Liberty, she called on her husband to be « fort ». To all those condemned, she launched: “You are our heroes”, inviting Belarusians in exile to write letters to the detainees to give them“Energy”. A few hours before the sentence, she had posted a video, where she is seated in front of a wall decorated with children’s drawings and a portrait of her husband. “I will continue to defend this man whom I love and who has become a leader for millions of Belarusians”, she underlined, saying she was ready “To the impossible” to speed up the time of their reunion.

Sergei Tsikhanovsky was a prominent YouTuber for his grueling videos of Alexander Lukashenko, which he called ” cockroach “ to be crushed. He was arrested in May 2020 while planning to run in the August presidential election. His wife, Svetlana, with no political experience, had replaced him at short notice ” by love “, mobilizing to the general surprise of crowds never seen against Alexander Lukashenko, a protest that the Belarusian regime has repressed with batons, heavy prison terms and forced exile.

Mr. Tsikhanovski and his co-defendants had been on trial since June behind closed doors. Almost no information has filtered out about this trial. Defense lawyers have been banned from speaking on pain of losing the right to practice.

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“I believe that [ces accusations] are imaginary and politically motivated ”Mr. Tsikhanovski said in a letter at the end of May to German media Deutsche Welle. “I refused to participate in this trial aiming at me ”Mikola Statkevich said in a letter to his wife. The latter told Radio Liberty on Tuesday that the convicts had not spoken during the trial and said she was confident “That this verdict will not be applied”.

Belarus has 912 political prisoners

In 2021, Belarusian justice had already condemned two major opponents: the former banker and presidential candidate Viktor Babaryko and his campaign manager, Maria Kolesnikova, who were sentenced to fourteen and eleven years in prison respectively. Among the leading opposition figures, Tsikhanovski therefore received the heaviest sentence.

According to the NGO Viasna, Belarus currently has 912 political prisoners. Svetlana Tsikhanovskaïa, a former English teacher, became the muse of the detractors of Mr. Lukashenko, against whom she campaigned during the presidential election of 2020. But, soon after the election, the regime forced her to resign. exile and, since, she has traveled the world, received by the heads of state and Western governments, to increase the pressure on the Belarusian president.

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To denounce the repression, the European Union (EU), the United States and other Western countries have taken several series of sanctions against personalities and companies linked to the regime, which has approached in return for Moscow, its main ally. In early December, the West again sanctioned Minsk, accused despite its denials of having orchestrated a migration crisis on its border with Poland in revenge and attempting to destabilize the EU.

The World with AFP

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Belarus: several opponents sentenced to terms of up to eighteen years in prison