The Minsk City Court sentenced former Belarusian presidential candidate and now exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to 15 years in prison. Prosecutor Mikhail Kovalev asked for 19 years. If Tikhanovskaya was in Belarus, she would have to serve her sentence in a general regime colony. Along with Tikhanovskaya, other members of the Coordinating Council involved in the case were convicted in absentia. So, the former Minister of Culture, now the head of the People’s Anti-Crisis Administration, Pavel Latushko, was sentenced to 18 years of hardened regime, and Maria Moroz, Olga Kovalkova and Sergei Dylevsky were sentenced to 12 years in prison each. All defendants were convicted of conspiring to seize state power unconstitutionally; creation of an extremist formation; public calls to seize state power and other actions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus and committing other serious crimes.
The trial of the Belarusian opposition leader and members of the Coordination Council began on January 17. It took place in absentia, since all the defendants in the case are abroad. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya commented on the verdict in Telegram:
“I don’t think about what they wanted to tell me with their ‘judgment’. With or without him, I and the democratic forces have done and will continue to do everything possible to free our political prisoners and lead our country towards democratic change. Today, I am thinking of those to whom the regime has given real mandates, and not absentees.
And here’s how Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s senior adviser Franak Vyachorka commented on the situation of the trials of opponents of the Belarusian regime to media:
“Lukashenko has an aggravation. In fact, there have not been so many such a concentration of court verdicts for a long time. And he just launched into an open all-in attack. Who would have thought that a Nobel laureate would be tried in Minsk 10 years ago? Even it seemed to me that at the last moment he would either give me a suspended sentence or even let him go, that he would make such a gesture towards the world and the West. He did not do it. I think he’s already developing this distorted perception of the world, such schizophrenia. He thinks that even if he shows a little weakness, the whole system will collapse immediately, and he is, so to speak, forced to keep the wheel of repression turning all the time. And in addition to all this toxic environment around him, he also screams with cries, says: “Alexander Grigorievich, bread and circuses!” And he gives these glasses. It’s courts, it’s retaliation, it’s bullying. And what happened with Bialiatski, with journalists from Tut.by, with Andrzej Poczobut, with Tikhanovsky, now with Tikhanovskaya, will now be Kostyugova and Belarusian experts. It is all these shows that the insatiable group around Lukashenko demands.
According to Vyachorka, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya reacted calmly to the verdict:
“I think that after all this, this virtual verdict is not perceived as something serious. After all, you have to distinguish between these distant courts, invented by Lukashenko, and the real courts – where people are imprisoned for real sentences. Yet here are just numbers, which probably won’t turn into something meaningful. And these tribunals that are against detainees, against political prisoners, there are real terms, which means that the people will be held in solitary confinement, tortured, mocked, raped.
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