Justice in Belarus has started the trial of opposition leader Tichanovskaya

Tichanovskaya, who currently lives in Lithuania, described the trial in an interview with the AFP news agency as a "farce" and "personal revenge" by the authoritarian head of state Alexander Lukashenko.

Justice in Belarus has started the trial of opposition leader Tichanovskaya

Tichanovskaya, who currently lives in Lithuania, described the trial in an interview with the AFP news agency as a "farce" and "personal revenge" by the authoritarian head of state Alexander Lukashenko. "I don't even know what my so-called lawyer will do tomorrow in this court, how he will defend me," Tichanovskaya said on Monday.

The 40-year-old is seen as the face of the Belarusian opposition, and she regularly denounces the government's ongoing attacks. In addition to her, the opposition and activists Maria Moros, Pavel Latuschko, Olga Kovalkowa and Sergei Dylewski are accused.

She does not know "how long this process will take, how many days, but I am sure that they will sentence me to many, many years in prison," said Tichanovskaya. She has not yet received access to court documents. She tried to contact her court-appointed lawyer, but he never responded.

AFP spoke to Tichanovskaya on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she says she is the first representative of her country since 1992. Lukashenko's first term in office began in 1994. Because of Lukashenko's authoritarian style of government, Belarus has been largely isolated internationally for decades.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that the US would impose visa restrictions on 25 Belarus officials, including parliamentarians.

"The Lukashenko regime continues to repress the Belarusian people and their democratic aspirations, including the politically motivated trial in absentia of democratic opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and other democracy activists on baseless allegations," Blinken said.

The trials are the latest example of the authoritarian head of state Lukashenko's efforts to "intimidate and suppress those who strive for justice, respect for human rights and a democratic Belarus".

Tichanovskaya ran against Lukashenko in the summer of 2020 in the presidential election in Belarus, which was overshadowed by massive allegations of fraud. Together with her political allies Veronika Zepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova, she shaped the election campaign.

Tichanowskaja ran in place of her imprisoned husband Sergei Tichanowski, and Zepkalo appeared at her side in the election campaign. Kolesnikova was Viktor Babaryko's campaign manager, who was at times considered Lukashenko's most promising challenger. However, like many other opposition candidates, he was arrested shortly before the election.

At a rally in Minsk on July 30, 2020, Tikhanovskaya shouted in front of a crowd: "I'm tired of having to endure everything, I'm tired of being silent, I'm tired of being afraid. And you?" The candidate was cheered at the time, not since Belarus' independence in 1991 had a presidential campaign mobilized such crowds.

After the election in early August 2020, Lukashenko proclaimed himself the winner. Tichanovskaya considers herself the real winner. The authoritarian head of state violently suppressed protests after the election. Thousands of people were arrested or fled abroad, including Tichanovskaya.

Almost two and a half years after the presidential election, the Belarusian authorities continue to crack down on critical voices. The human rights organization Vyazna currently has more than 1,400 political prisoners.

The trial against the imprisoned Vyazna founder Ales Byalyatsky, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December, began in Minsk at the beginning of January. The democracy activist and two fellow campaigners who are also accused face up to twelve years in prison.

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