Belarusian bloggers Losik and Tsikhanoski await verdict
Belarusian court set to deliver verdicts and convictions in one of the country’s most-watched trials against a group of bloggers, opposition activists and the husband of exiled opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
Human rights groups consider that the six people tried behind closed doors in the town of Homel, in the south-east of the country, are political prisoners arrested before a contested presidential election in August 2020. D ‘ Lasting 173 days, the trial is one of the longest in Belarusian history.
The crackdown on the pro-democracy movement has only intensified since mass protests erupted following the re-election of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka in August 2020, who is unrecognized by the opposition and the West.
Among those on trial is renowned video blogger Syarhey Tsikhanoski, who intended to run against Lukashenka before being disqualified and ultimately arrested ahead of the elections.
After being disqualified, his wife, new to politics, Tsikhanouskaya, mobilized voters and won the elections, according to opposition and Western countries.
Tsikhanouskaya has been living in exile in Lithuania since she fled Belarus after the elections over concerns about her safety and that of the couple’s two children.
RFE / RL blogger and consultant Ihar Losik is also on trial. He was arrested ahead of the elections and accused of using his popular Telegram channel to prepare actions aimed at violating public order.
RFE / RL President Jamie Fly called on the Lukashenka regime to end its “reprehensible” treatment of Losik and other journalists.
“The closed-door trial he and his co-defendants have endured over the past five months has been an outrageous parody of justice. return to his wife and daughter, ”Fly said before the verdict.
Other defendants in the trial include former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich and opposition activists Uladzimer Tsyhanovich, Artsyom Sakau and Dzmitry Papou.
The defendants, who have been in pre-trial detention since their arrest, are accused of various alleged crimes, including organizing mass unrest, inciting social hatred, obstructing the activities of the Central Election Commission and organizing activities that disrupt the social order. It is not known why some of the defendants are being tried together or why the trial is being held behind closed doors.
As a result of the elections, tens of thousands of people have been arrested and human rights activists say more than 800 people are considered political prisoners.
Independent media, opposition social media channels and civil society groups have also been harassed and shut down, while much of the opposition is in prison or exile.
The verdict is expected to be announced at 11:00 GMT / UTC at a detention center in Homel.