Exiled Belarus opposition leader sentenced to 15 years in absentia

Moscow, Mar 6 (EFE).- Belarus on Monday sentenced exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in absentia to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to seize power in the eastern European nation.

Four other exiled opposition leaders were sentenced in the same case, including former culture minister Pavel Latushko, who was handed a term of 18 years. The three others were given 12-year sentences.

All of those convicted in absentia Monday are in exile in either Lithuania or Poland, both of which border Belarus.

The Minsk court ruled that Tsikhanouskaya and the other accused had attempted to seize power in Belarus, created an extremist group and encouraged actions to damage national security.

Tsikhanouskaya ran against hard-line president Alexander Lukashenko in the 2020 election.

The country’s electoral commission handed a landslide win to Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. The results were widely rejected by the West, however, and Tsikhanouskaya claimed victory herself.

Mass protests erupted after the election, and were violently clamped down on by the state.

Tsikhanouskaya, who ran in the election in place of her detained husband and opposition leader Sergei Tikhanovsky, now leads an opposition platform from exile.

She remarked on Monday’s ruling with a social media post.

“15 years of prison. This is how the regime ‘rewarded’ my work for democratic changes in Belarus. But today I don’t think about my own sentence. I think about thousands of innocents, detained and sentenced to real prison terms. I won’t stop until each of them is released,” she said.

There are over 1,400 political prisoners in Belarus, according to the Viasna human rights group. EFE


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