Opposition Leader To Europe’s ‘Last Dictator’ Sentenced To 18 Years In Jail

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An opposition leader to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Tuesday, BBC News reported.

Sergei Tikhanovsky had planned to challenge Lukashenko, who has acted as president of Belarus since 1994, but he was detained before he could do so, BBC News reported. Tikhanovsky was convicted of organizing riots.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the opposition leader’s wife who picked up her husband’s torch and campaigned against Lukashenko herself, said the sentence amounted to “personal revenge,” BBC News reported. She claimed victory in the 2020 presidential election shortly before being forced into exile along with her children.

“While hiding the political prisoners in closed trials, he hopes to continue repressions in silence,” Tikhanovskaya tweeted Tuesday. “But the whole world watches. We won’t stop.”

Before the verdict was given, she tweeted that “be it one year, or 20, or 100, — it is unacceptable. The only question I will ask myself is: what am I going to do with this? #StandWithBelarus.”

Five opposition figures were sentenced alongside Tikhanovsky with sentences ranging from 14 to 16 years, BBC News reported. They join the hundreds of political prisoners believed to be in Belarusian jails.

Lukashenko is known throughout Europe as the continent’s “last dictator,” with the president even referring to himself as such in an interview with Reuters in 2012.

A plane containing journalist Roman Protasevich, who was critical of the Lukashenko, was forcibly grounded in Belarus in June after a false bomb threat. The U.S. issued sanctions on Belarus alongside Western allies in the aftermath.

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“We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime’s continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law,” Canada, the EU, U.K. and the U.S. said in a joint statement in June. “We are united in calling for the regime to end its repressive practices against its own people.”

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