January 28, 2022

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Belarus Opposition Chief Is Sentenced to 18 Years in Jail

Belarus Opposition Leader Is Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison

MOSCOW — A court docket in Belarus on Tuesday convicted an opposition chief on expenses of organizing mass unrest and inciting social hatred over his try and problem the nation’s authoritarian chief, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, in a presidential election final 12 months. It sentenced him to 18 years in jail.

The activist, Sergei Tikhanovsky, 43, ran a well-liked YouTube channel in Belarus earlier than saying his candidacy forward of the 2020 vote. However he was arrested earlier than the election, an act that prompted his spouse, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, to step in and lead the favored motion towards Mr. Lukashenko.

After months of closed hearings, the regional court docket within the metropolis of Gomel, Mr. Tikhanovsky’s hometown, confirmed that it had rendered its verdict on Tuesday. He was on trial together with 5 different defendants, together with Nikolai Statkevich, 65, who ran towards Mr. Lukashenko within the 2010 presidential election.

The 5 different defendants, together with Igor Losik, 29, a journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Belarus, had been sentenced to jail phrases starting from 14 to 16 years.

Ever since mass protests set off by Mr. Lukashenko’s re-election for a sixth time period as president in August 2020 — a vote widely regarded as rigged — the Belarusian chief has unleashed a marketing campaign of political oppression unseen in Europe for many years. 1000’s of individuals, together with opposition leaders, protesters and people who subscribed to impartial media retailers, have been detained. Rights teams regard lots of of them as political prisoners.

In July, a Belarusian court docket convicted one other presidential hopeful, Viktor Babariko, on corruption expenses and sentenced him to 14 years in jail. A former head of a Russian state-owned financial institution, Mr. Babariko led the polls earlier than the 2020 vote however was arrested weeks earlier than Election Day. He has denied the costs.

In September, Maria Kolesnikova, one of the leaders of the protest movement that adopted the election, was sentenced to 11 years in jail.

In a video statement launched hours earlier than the decision, Ms. Tikhanovskaya, who’s main the motion towards Mr. Lukashenko from exile in Lithuania, vowed “to proceed to defend the individual I like, who has grow to be a pacesetter for hundreds of thousands of Belarussians.” She added, “I’ll attempt to do one thing very tough, maybe unimaginable, to be able to deliver nearer the second after we will see him within the new Belarus.”

Mr. Tikhanovsky started his weblog in 2019. He posted movies wherein he ridiculed the nation’s Soviet-style Potemkin window-dressing and uncovered widespread poverty. In his hottest video, he interviewed a girl in a small city of Glubokoye, wherein she referred to as Mr. Lukashenko a “so-called president” and “cockroach.”

The jailing of Mr. Tikhanovsky by Belarus is emblematic of efforts by authoritarian governments in international locations like China, Egypt and Iran to stifle dissent by way of the courts. On Monday, a court docket in Hong Kong sentenced the previous media mogul Jimmy Lai and 7 different outstanding pro-democracy activists to months in jail for his or her try and commemorate the crackdown on peaceable protesters in Tiananmen Sq. in 1989.

In Egypt, a court docket final month convicted a outstanding human rights advocate and lawyer of spreading false information and insulting the federal government as a part of an effort to focus on and silence a rising listing of activists, journalists and dissidents.

In Belarus, Mr. Lukashenko has gone even additional. Along with stifling dissent contained in the nation, he additionally launched a marketing campaign to destabilize his nation’s European neighbors. In Could, he scrambled a jet to intercept a industrial airplane carrying an opposition activist from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, and compelled it to land in Minsk.

And, he has orchestrated an ongoing international crisis by encouraging hundreds of migrants from the Center East to come back to Belarus and use its territory to cross the border into the European Union, a transfer described by Poland and Lithuania as hybrid warfare.

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