Reacting to the 18-year prison sentence handed down today to Syarhei Tsikhanouski – who was arrested in May 2020 after announcing his intention to run for the Belarusian presidency – and custodial sentences for his associates Mikalai Statkevich, Ihar Losik, Artsyom Sakau, Uladzimir Tsyganovich and Dmitry Popov, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:
“Syarhei Tsikhanouski’s case is emblematic of the repression unleashed by the Belarusian government against its own people. He was arrested on trumped-up riot charges just weeks after announcing his intention to run for the presidency. His wife, Svyatlana Tikhanouskaya, who ran in his place, was forced to leave the country after being harassed and intimidated by the authorities. This is today’s Belarus, where those who wish to oppose the authorities face a terrible choice between languishing in prison or leaving their homeland.
This is today’s Belarus, where those who wish to oppose the authorities face a terrible choice between languishing in prison or leaving their homelandMarie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“Syarhei Tsikhanouski and his associates have been unlawfully persecuted on overtly political grounds and must be freed immediately. The international community must not forget about them and should exercise as much pressure on Minsk as possible to end their imprisonment and the relentless repression in Belarus.”
The Homel Regional Court today sentenced Syarhei Tsikhanouski to 18 years in prison. He was found guilty of “organizing mass riots,” “distribution of materials aimed at inciting social hatred against representatives of the authorities and law enforcement agencies,” “obstruction of voting rights,” and “organizing group actions that grossly violate public order.”
His associates, Mikalai Statkevich, leader of the unregistered political party Narodnaya Hramada, Ihar Losik, Artsyom Sakau, Uladzimir Tsyganovich and Dmitry Popov, a Russian national, have received 14, 15, 16, 15 and 16-year sentences respectively on similar charges.
Their trial began in late June this year behind closed doors. All hearings took place not in a court room but in the Homel pre-trial detention center. No information about the court proceedings was made available. Amnesty International analyzed their case and concluded that all charges are unfounded and politically motivated.