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Belarus court jails leading opposition figure Sergei Tikhanovsky for 18 years

“The dictator publicly takes revenge on his strongest opponents,” Tikhanovskaya tweeted. “While hiding the political prisoners in closed trials, he hopes to continue repressions in silence. But the whole world watches. We won’t stop.”

A Belarusian court convicted popular blogger and leading opposition figure Sergei Tikhanovsky of inciting mass unrest and social hatred and sentenced him to 18 years in prison on Tuesday after a closed 173-day trial. It is the latest in hefty sentences of political rivals who challenged President Alexander Lukashenko in a 2020 election, the Washington Post reports.

Tikhanovsky announced plans to run against Lukashenko before the August 2020 election but was arrested, jailed and barred from running, prompting his wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, to take his place, forming an opposition alliance with two other figures, Maria Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo.

Kolesnikova was jailed for 11 years in September. Another of Lukashenko’s opposition rivals who announced plans to run in the election, Viktor Babariko, was jailed for 14 years in July.

Street protests broke out after Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, was declared the winner, in results rejected by the opposition. Facing the strongest challenge to his rule, he launched a brutal crackdown, which eventually succeeded in crushing the protests. Thousands of Belarusians have fled into exile.

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