Sergei Tikhanovskaya has been found guilty of organising riots, inciting social hatred and other charges by a Belarusian court as his wife called the the verdict a "political revenge".

Sergei Tikhanovsky was handed the longest prison sentence of any Belarusian opposition leader so far.
Sergei Tikhanovsky was handed the longest prison sentence of any Belarusian opposition leader so far. (AP)

Belarus's opposition leader's husband Sergei Tikhanovsky has been sentenced to 18 years in jail for organising mass unrest and inciting social hatred, six months after the trial began behind closed doors.

A court found Tikhanovsky guilty on Tuesday, after he galvanised an unprecedented protest movement against strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko last year. 

Five supporters of Tikhanovsky were tried along with him and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 16 years, the official Belta news agency reported on Tuesday.

One of the co-defendants was veteran politician Mikola Statkevich, 65, who was sentenced to 14 years. He challenged Lukashenko in elections in 2010 and had been sentenced to six years in prison.

Both Tikhanovsky and Statkevich have been in custody since May 2020. Little was known about the trial which began in June.

The four other co-defendants in the case, bloggers Igor Losik and Vladimir Tsyganovich and two activists linked to Tikhanovsky, Artyom Sakov and Russian citizen Dmitry Popov, received between 15 and 16 years in prison.

They join a growing list of people behind bars in Belarus. As of Tuesday, there were 920 political prisoners in the ex-Soviet country, according to the Viasna rights group.

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Five supporters of Tikhanovsky were tried along with him and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 16 years, the official Belta news agency reported.
Five supporters of Tikhanovsky were tried along with him and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 16 years, the official Belta news agency reported. (AP)

'The whole world watches'

His wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who became opposition leader in his stead, denounced the verdict from self-exile in neighbouring EU member Lithuania.

"The dictator publicly takes revenge on his strongest opponents," she wrote on Twitter after her husband was handed the sentence.

"While hiding the political prisoners in closed trials, he hopes to continue repressions in silence. But the whole world watches. We won't stop," she added in English.

Tikhanovsky, a charismatic 43-year-old YouTube blogger, last spring launched a presidential campaign against Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet country of around 9.5 million people with an iron grip since 1994.

Belarusian authorities stopped Tikhanovsky's campaign short, arresting him on charges of violating public order ahead of the August 2020 vote and keeping him in detention since.

However, his protest movement triggered a months-long wave of unprecedented mass protests, the largest of which saw some 200,000 people taking to the streets of the Belarusian capital of Minsk.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies