An exiled Belarus opposition figure is sentenced in absentia to 20 years

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A court in Belarus has sentenced a top opposition figure living in exile to 20 years in absentia, the latest in a yearslong crackdown on dissent in the country.

The court in the capital Minsk passed the sentence late Thursday on Franak Viachorka — an advisor to opposition leader Svitalana Tsikhanouskaya — after convicting him of charges including treason and insulting the president.

Viachorka lives in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, where many opposition figures — including Tsikhanouskaya — fled after the disputed 2020 presidential election in which Tsikhanouskaya ran against authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Lukashenko, who has led Belarus since 1994, was declared the winner of the election, but the result was widely regarded as falsified. The opposition and the West disputed Lukashenko’s reelection and denounced the vote as rigged.

That results set off months of protests that were unprecedented in their size and duration. Police arrested more than 35,000 people in connection with the protests, many of whom were beaten.

Opposition figures who remained in the country were imprisoned, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, founder of the Viasna human rights organization. Viachorka had attempted to be allowed to testify at his trial by videolink, but the request was denied.

“It was not a trial, but a farce, and all the charges against me were fabricated,” he told The Associated Press.

The Associated Press