Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has sentenced the husband of opposition leader Ales Mikhalevich to 18 years in prison. The sentence is considered part of an effort by Lukashenko’s government to crack down on dissent and increase his power base over Belarus, which was once one of Europe’s more democratic countries before being re-sanctioned by the European Union.
Belarus Sentences Husband of Opposition Leader to 18 Years in Prison. The opposition leader’s husband was sentenced to 18 years for “inciting mass disorder.”
MOSCOW— The spouse of Belarus’ most famous opposition leader was sentenced to 18 years in jail on Tuesday, the latest action against autocratic leader Alexander Lukashenko’s opponents.
Sergei Tikhanovsky, a renowned YouTube blogger and activist, was jailed a few months before the contested presidential election last year, in which he had wanted to run. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, his wife, campaigned in place of her imprisoned husband and garnered a large number of followers who think she won the election. Ms. Tikhanovskaya departed the former Soviet republic for Lithuania nearly as soon as the election was called, claiming worries for her children’s safety.
Following the referendum, which opponents accused Mr. Lukashenko of stealing, there were weeks of demonstrations, which were greeted with a savage crackdown by the country’s security forces, who remain loyal to the Belarusian president.
Mr. Tikhanovsky was found guilty of planning large disturbances, violence against persons, arson, and property damage, among other offenses, by a court in Gomel, Belarus. According to the prosecution, he, along with five companions condemned to sentences ranging from 14 to 16 years, would also be had to pay the state the equivalent of more than $1 million in damages.
Mr. Tikhanovsky’s sentence, which is one of the longest against a political opponent of Mr. Lukashenko in recent memory, comes as the Belarusian leader faces criticism from European leaders, who accuse him of encouraging thousands of migrants to travel to Belarus and attempt to cross the border into Poland in retaliation for European sanctions against his regime. Mr. Lukashenko has denied that he is to blame for the current migratory problem.
Ms. Tikhanovskaya has traveled the world on diplomatic missions, urging the United States and Europe to increase pressure on Belarus’s president, who has remained defiant, mocking Western sanctions and vowing never to cede power to his political opponents, whom he has dismissed as foreign-backed agents.
Following the announcement of her husband’s sentence, Ms. Tikhanovskaya sounded defiant on Tuesday.
“The tyrant exacts public vengeance on his most vehement foes,” she said on Twitter. “By putting political detainees on trial in secret, he intends to keep repressions quiet.” However, the whole world is watching. “We’re not going to quit.”
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s supporters think she won Belarus’ presidential election last year; in June, Ms. Tikhanovskaya displayed a portrait of her husband, Mr. Tikhanovsky, in the Czech parliament.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/Roman Vondrous
The opposition leader said that all political prisoners in Belarus should know that “the world community is with them,” and she demanded the immediate release of “all innocent individuals.”
According to Viasna, a Minsk-based nonprofit human-rights organization, Belarus has around 900 political prisoners as of December 1.
They include Maria Kalesnikava, a Belarusian activist who was sentenced to 11 years in jail in September on a range of offenses, including planning to depose Mr. Lukashenko.
Ms. Kalesnikava, who was the country’s last major opposition voice at the time, was a member of the National Coordination Council, a group created by opposition leaders last year to assist with the transfer of power to a new administration after the disputed presidential election.
Maxim Znak, her coworker, was also sentenced to ten years in a maximum-security jail.
“Every political prisoner is a disgrace to the Lukashenko dictatorship,” Pavel Latushko, a former Belarusian ambassador currently residing in Poland and the chairman of National Anti-Crisis Management, an opposition group, said in a video released Tuesday. “We can’t have our will to be free taken away from us.” We’re going to battle. Belarus will be free, and Belarusians will be free,” he said.
Ann M. Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.
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‘Husband of Belarus Opposition Leader Gets 18 Years in Prison,’ appeared in the print edition on December 15, 2021.
Watch This Video-
Sergei Tikhanovsky, the husband of Belarus opposition leader Ales Kirilchik, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges of embezzlement. Reference: sergei tikhanovsky youtube.
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