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14 Dec, 2021 11:36

Belarus delivers harsh sentence to Tikhanovskaya's husband

Belarus delivers harsh sentence to Tikhanovskaya's husband

Sergey Tikhanovsky, a Belarusian political activist and the husband of Western-backed opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has been handed eighteen years behind bars by a court in Gomel.

On Tuesday, a court in the south-eastern Belarusian city delivered the verdict during a session at the detention center where Tikhanovsky is being held.

According to local media, investigators claimed that the activist and his accomplices had been involved in organizing mass unrest in Belarus in the wake of last summer's presidential election. Prosecutors accused him of inciting hatred and discord in society.

“Tikhonovsky was sentenced to 18 years in a high-security penal colony," the Gomel Regional Court's press secretary, Alina Suleyko, told TASS.

Three other opposition figures - Nikolay Statkevich, Igor Losik, and Vladimir Tsyganovich - were also found guilty in the same trial, Belta added.

Tikhanovsky's wife, Svetlana, came to prominence after a number of opposition figures rallied around her as a candidate in last summer’s presidential election. The endorsements came after her husband was detained before the vote and barred from standing. The country's long-time leader, Alexander Lukashenko, was officially declared the winner by a landslide, in a ruling that raised eyebrows internationally.

Tikhanovskaya, who insists that she won the election and that it was rigged, subsequently fled the country to avoid arrest and is now based in neighboring Lithuania. She has since embarked on a tour of Western capitals, calling for sanctions against Lukashenko's government.

Taking to Twitter after the sentencing, Tikhanovskaya accused the veteran leader of publicly taking “revenge on his strongest opponents.”

“While hiding the political prisoners in closed trials, he hopes to continue repressions in silence. But the whole world watches. We won't stop,” she wrote.

Following last summer's election, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to call for a fresh vote. Protesters were met by police firing tear gas on crowds and a campaign of mass arrests.

A large number of Western nations have since imposed sanctions on Minsk over the allegations of election rigging and the subsequent crackdown on the opposition.

Lukashenko has accused the bloc of waging a "hybrid war" on his country by hosting exiled activists and banned media outlets.

In July, Viktor Babariko, a veteran Belarusian opposition figure who was barred from participating in the election, was sentenced to 14 years behind bars after officials accused him of fraud and corruption. His chief of staff, Maria Kolesnikova, also a prominent member of the team behind Tikhanovskaya, is also now in a Belarusian prison, serving an 11-year term.

The EU has broadened measures against Minsk after the “fraudulent” vote, which Brussels has condemned as neither free nor fair.