A court in Belarus sentenced opposition leader Sergei Tikhanovsky to 18 years in prison for organizing mass protests against President Alexander Lukashenko last year.
The court in the southeastern city of Gomel found Tikhanovsky guilty of organizing riots and inciting social hatred, among other charges, following a trial that began in June behind closed doors.
Tikhanovsky campaigned to run for president against Lukashenko in 2020 but was arrested. His wife Svetlana took his place in the elections and was widely believed to have won amid accusations of vote rigging against Lukashenko.
Svetlana, who lives in exile in Lithuania, denounced the verdict.
“The dictator publicly takes revenge on his strongest opponents. While hiding the political prisoners in closed trials, he hopes to continue repressions in silence,” Svetlana said on Twitter.
Top officials from other countries and international bodies also condemned the verdict.
“The European Parliament condemns this sham trial and the politically motivated sentences,” European Parliament President David Sassoli said.
“We will always speak out against Lukashenko’s repression and support those fighting for a free and democratic Belarus,” Sassoli added.
Peter Stano, the lead spokesperson for the external affairs of the European Union (EU), said in a statement that EU “remains committed to consider further sanctions” on Belarus following the verdict.
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry described the verdict as “shameful and outrageous” and urged political prisoners in Belarus to be released.
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