Belarus Opposition Leader Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison on ‘Treason’ Charges

Belarus opposition leader-in-exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Monday after being found guilty in absentia of treason and “conspiring to usurp power.” Tsikhanouskaya called the ruling a punishment for her efforts to promote democracy.

Tsikhanouskaya, 40, a former English teacher, fled to neighboring Lithuania in 2020 after running against incumbent leader Alexander Lukashenko in the presidential election, which official results showed Lukashenko won in a landslide.

He and the opposition at the time said the election results had been engineered to give Lukashenko a victory, not him. Lukashenko, who ruled Belarus with an iron fist for nearly 30 years, has denied the claims.

Mass protests against Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, then broke out, which were eventually put down by security forces. Lukashenko then jailed his opponents or forced them to flee.

Authorities tried Tsikhanouskaya, who is the de-facto leader of the opposition, in absentia in January, accusing her and other opposition figures of trying to seize power in an unconstitutional way.

Belta, the Belarus news agency, said a court in Minsk had sentenced Tsikhanouskaya to 15 years in a prison camp after she was found guilty of treason and conspiracy to usurp power. [my/lt]

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