DAVOS, Switzerland ( Associated Press) — The absentee trial of Belarus’ top opposition leader, who called the trial against him a farce and called on the West to step up its support for the country’s beleaguered opposition, began in absentia Tuesday.
Svetlana Tsikanuskaya was the main opposition candidate in the August 2020 presidential election, which President Alexander Lukashenko says she won but which both the Belarusian opposition and the West believe to be rigged.
Sikhanovskaya, who left the former Soviet republic shortly after the election under pressure from the authorities, is being tried in absentia along with four other prominent opponents. The woman is accused of high treason, conspiracy to overthrow the government and attack on national security. If convicted, he faces the possibility of 20 years in prison.
Tsikhanouskaya said she learned about the process, which is taking place behind closed doors, from the press. He said he had not been able to contact the lawyer assigned to him by the Belarusian authorities.
“It feels like a farce,” Tsikhanskaya said in an interview with The Associated Press in Davos, Switzerland, where she is attending the World Economic Forum. “I will be sentenced for years and years. Will punish.”
In December 2021, her husband Sirhiy Tsikhanouski was sentenced to 18 years in prison, accused of organizing mass riots and inciting hatred, charges he denies. On Monday, authorities brought new charges against him.
“The lawyer visits her at least once a week to make sure she is still alive, because the conditions in the prison are terrible,” Tsikanuskaya said. “They are often taken to the punishment cell, and you don’t have any rights when you’re in jail.”
Yuras Karmanou contributed to this story from Tallinn, Estonia.