Leading MEPs condemn the sentencing of Syarhei Tsikhanouski, Mikalai Statkevich and other leading opposition figures to long prison terms in Belarus.

“We are outraged by the harsh sentences given yesterday to leading Belarusian opposition figures Syarhei Tsikhanouski, Mikalai Statkevich, Ihar Losik, Artsyom Sakau, Uladzimir Tsyhanovich and Dzmitry Papou. They have been given long prison terms on trumped-up charges of trying to seize power, inciting hatred and social unrest, and extremism.            In particular, Syarhei Tsikhanouski, who was arrested in May 2020 after announcing his intention to run for presidency against Belarus’ long-time dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka and has remained in detention ever since, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. This is a desperate act of revenge by the regime, aimed also against his wife, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who succeeded in uniting large segments of the democratic opposition behind her candidacy and is widely considered to be the real winner of last year’s presidential election.                                                                                            Mikalai Statkevich, a veteran politician, who leads the unregistered political party Narodnaya Hramada and ran in the 2010 presidential election, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.                                                                                                              Both S. Tsikhanouski and M. Statkevich are laureates of the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.                                                                                                    I. Losik, A. Sakau, U. Tsyhanovich and D. Papou were handed 15-, 16-, 15- and 16-year sentences respectively on similar fabricated charges.                                                    This latest travesty of justice came as no surprise, as the trial took place behind closed doors in a detention centre in Homiel, and no information about the court proceedings was made available to the public. It clearly illustrates the regime’s growing fear of its own people.                                                                                                                            We reiterate our call to the Belarusian regime to put an end to this confrontational spiral, to release all political prisoners immediately and without preconditions, and to engage in a genuine dialogue with the democratic forces and civil society to find a way out of the current political crisis.                                                                                                    Until then, we stand by the brave people of Belarus in their quest for democracy and freedom. No matter how horrendous the repression, we are convinced that truth and justice will ultimately prevail.                                                                                            Zhyve Belarus!”