Belarusian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanouskaia has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crimes of treason and “conspiracy to seize power”. In addition to Tikhanouskaia, four other elements of the opposition to the regime of Alexander Lukashenko were also sentenced to heavy sentences in cases seen as part of broader political persecution.
Tikhanouskaia has been in exile in Lithuania for almost three years and was tried at a distance, like the other members of the opposition. They fled Belarus in the summer of 2020, after a campaign of strong repression by the authorities following a wave of protests against the regime. At issue were allegations of electoral fraud during the presidential elections in which Lukashenko and Tikhanouskaia participated, won by the man who has ruled Belarus for almost three decades.
The Minsk court found that the five politicians conspired to overthrow the government, founded and led an “extremist group”, promoted acts of hatred and jeopardized national security.
Tikhanouskaia, an English teacher who became a candidate after her husband was barred from running for election, said the trial was a “farce” and revealed she had no access to any documentation relating to the case. “15 years in prison. This is how the regime ‘rewarded’ my work in the name of democratic changes in Belarus”, wrote the opponent on Twitter.
After the 2020 elections, the Lukashenko regime launched a massive campaign of persecution of any critical voice. According to human rights group Viasna, around 1500 political activists are currently imprisoned in Belarus.
Just last week, political activist Ales Bialiatski, winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, was sentenced to ten years in prison for having financed “activities that grossly violated public order”.
Tikhanouskaia’s husband, Syarhey Tikhanouski, had already been sentenced to 18 years in prison and recently saw his sentence extended for another 18 months.