Belarus Opposition Leader Is Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison

MOSCOW — A court in Belarus on Tuesday convicted an opposition leader on charges of organizing mass unrest and inciting social hatred over his attempt to challenge the country’s authoritarian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, in a presidential election last year. It also sentenced him to 18 years in prison.

The activist, Sergei Tikhanovsky, 43, ran a popular YouTube channel in Belarus before announcing his candidacy ahead of the 2020 vote. But he was arrested before the election, an act that prompted his wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, to step in and lead the popular movement against Mr. Lukashenko.

After months of closed hearings, a court in the city of Gomel, Mr. Tikhanovsky’s hometown, confirmed that it had rendered its verdict on Tuesday. He was on trial along with five other defendants, including Nikolai Statkevich, 65, who ran against Mr. Lukashenko in the 2010 presidential election. The five other defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 16 years.

Ever since mass protests set off by Mr. Lukashenko’s re-election for a sixth term as president in August 2020 — a vote widely regarded as rigged — the Belarusian leader has unleashed a campaign of political oppression unseen in Europe for decades. Thousands of people, including opposition leaders, protesters and those who subscribed to independent media outlets, have been detained. Rights groups regard hundreds of them as political prisoners.

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