Belarus puts exiled opposition leader on trial

STORY: Belarus put exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on trial in absentia on treason charges on Tuesday (January 17).

40-year-old Tsikhanouskaya fled the country after running against Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election.

The vote was followed by mass protests over alleged electoral fraud.

Following a crackdown on protesters, she became the head of an opposition-in-exile.

Now living in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, she faces a possible jail term of up to 15 years.

Ahead of the trial, Tsikhanouskaya told Reuters in the Swiss resort of Davos that she did not expect the trial to be fair.

"First of all, I have to say that in Belarus there are no honest trials. We live in absolute lawlessness in our country so tomorrow's trial, on me, will be a farce and a show but not real justice, you know."

Adding that she had asked for the necessary documents from the court-appointed lawyer, but had not received anything.

"I haven't had any reply so I don't understand what this lawyer will do in this court if he doesn't know my position, if he has never communicated to me but he is supposed to defend me."

The BelTa state news agency said the trial had started on Tuesday morning.

"This is like personal revenge of Lukashenko for myself and the other people who are opposing him for 2,5 years".

Tsikhanouskaya and several others were to be tried on charges of treason and attempting to seize power, the court said before the trial.

Rights activists estimate about 1,500 people are in jail in Belarus on politically motivated charges.