A Belarusian court on Monday, March 6, sentenced opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya to 15 years in prison in her absence. According to the state-run Belta news agency and human rights organization Viasna, another opponent, Pavel Latouchko, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Three other people were also sentenced to twelve years in prison.
Ms Tsikhanovskaya reacted quickly, vowing to continue her struggle and political activities after news of her conviction in a trial she called a "farce". "Today I don't think about my own pain. I think of thousands of innocent people, detainees and those sentenced to actual prison terms,” she said on Twitter. "I won't stop until each of them is freed. »
During this trial, which took place in an opaque manner, Ms. Tsikhanovskaïa was targeted by a dozen charges, in particular that of "conspiracy to seize power in an unconstitutional manner". Last week, the Belarusian prosecutor's office requested nineteen years in prison against the 40-year-old opponent and refugee in Lithuania.
Nearly 1,500 political prisoners in Belarus
His conviction and those of the four other opponents are part of a context of accelerated repression in Belarus, a former Soviet republic ruled with an iron fist for three decades by Alexander Lukashenko. On Friday, activist Ales Bialiatski, co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize and figure of the democracy movement in Belarus, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Unlike Ms Tsikhanovskaya, he is still in the country, where he has been imprisoned since 2021.
In an interview in January, Ms. Tsikhanovskaya called her trial a "farce" and added that it was a "personal revenge" by Alexander Lukashenko against the one who shook his power in 2020. This repression makes indeed following a historic protest movement that erupted in 2020 after the controversial re-election of Mr. Lukashenko in a ballot marred by massive fraud, according to observers. These protest actions were put down with thousands of arrests, cases of torture, the death of several demonstrators, heavy sentences and forced exiles.
Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya, who ran for president in 2020 in place of her imprisoned husband, Sergei Tikhanovski, gathered crowds across the country during the campaign, raising hopes for change. Forced into exile, the one who once presented herself as a simple stay-at-home mother is now the face of democratic forces in Belarus and the enemy of a regime whose brutal abuses she tirelessly denounces. The husband of Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya, a popular blogger who fiercely criticized Mr. Lukashenko, was sentenced in December 2021 to eighteen years in prison, including for "organizing massive disturbances" and "inciting hatred in society".
According to the NGO Viasna, Belarus had 1,461 political prisoners as of March 1. Westerners have taken several rounds of sanctions against Minsk for the crackdown on the 2020 protests, but the regime still enjoys Moscow's unwavering support. Belarus has agreed in return to serve as a rear base for Russian troops to attack Ukraine in February 2022. But the Belarusian army has so far not taken a direct part in the fighting.