In the 16 months since the fraudulent August 2020 presidential election in Belarus, the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka systematically decimated Lukashenka’s political opponents, civil society, independent media, and virtually all other independent voices in the country through a series of sham, closed trials. Those accused were invariably found guilty of trumped-up charges and sentenced to long prison terms.
On December 14, six more influential opposition figures were convicted of various crimes and remanded to prison. Popular YouTube blogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, who was arrested in May 2020 after he announced his intention to run against Lukashenka for the Belarusian presidency, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for organizing mass unrest and inciting hatred, among other charges. After Mr. Tsikhanouski’s arrest, his wife, human rights activist Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, ran in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election as the main opposition candidate.
Opposition politician Mikalai Statkevich received 14 years in prison. Bloggers Vladimir Tsyganovich and Ihar Losik, who also worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, were each sentenced to 15 years, while Tsikhanouski associates Artyom Sakov and Dmitry Popov were sentenced to 16 years.
“The United States condemns today’s politically motivated convictions of Belarusian opposition figures Syarhey Tsikhanouski, Mikalai Statkevich, Radio Liberty journalist Ihar Losik, and others in judicial proceedings that do not conform to the rule of law,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a written statement.
“Belarus has obligations under international law, as well as commitments as an OSCE participating State, to respect the right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal, as well as the rights of the individual to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Regrettably, these sentences are further evidence of the regime’s disregard for these international obligations as well as for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Belarusians. The Belarusian people deserve better,” said Secretary Blinken.
“We reiterate our call for the Lukashenka regime to end its crackdown on members of civil society, independent media, the political opposition, athletes, students, legal professionals and other Belarusians; to immediately release all of the more than 900 political prisoners, including Mr. Tsikhanouski, Mr. Losik, Mr. Statkevich, and others; to engage in a genuine dialogue with the democratic forces and civil society; to hold free and fair elections under international observation; to stop its cruel exploitation of vulnerable migrants; and to respect its obligations under international law.”