Belarus opposition leader denounces her trial as ‘farce’

LITHUANIA (AFP): Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called her trial in absentia, set to start on Tuesday, a “farce” and “revenge” from President Alexander Lukashenko, saying she had not been given access to court documents.


“These trials are not trials at all. It’s a show, it’s farce, but it has nothing to do with justice at all,” Tikhanovskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania, told AFP at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Monday.


“It’s personal revenge of Lukashenko and his cronies, but not only against me, but other people who are opposing him,” she said.


Faced with “about ten charges” including high treason and conspiracy to seize power, the 40-year-old said she had contacted her court-appointed lawyer, but he never replied.


“I don’t even know what my so-called lawyer will be doing tomorrow in this court, how he’s going to defend me,” she added.


“I don’t know how long this trial will take place, how many days, but I’m sure they will sentence me to many, many years in jail.”


Lukashenko’s regime has prosecuted and jailed a growing number of opposition figures, journalists and activists since mass protests in 2020.


– ‘Bluffing’ –


Tikhanovskaya also dismissed joint air force drills on Monday between Russia and Belarus as the latest “bluffing” from Lukashenko.


The authoritarian leader allowed his military and financial backer Russia to use Belarussian territory to stage attacks on Ukraine last February, but did not send his own troops.


“I would call it bluffing or a show for the Belarussian people,” Tikhanovskaya said of the latest exercises.


“First of all to threaten them, to say ‘look the Russian army is here, so sit quietly, don’t oppose anything’.”


She said the other purpose was “attracting the attention of Ukrainian soldiers from hotspots in eastern part (of Ukraine) to the Belarussian borders.”


She added: “Ukrainians are prepared for possible land attacks. They mined a lot of kilometres of border and I think it’s impossible to again invade Ukraine (from Belarus).”


Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory in contested 2020 presidential election, said she was the first Belarussian to attend the World Economic Forum since 1992 — two years before Lukashenko came to power.


“It’s a huge honour for us because for (almost) 30 years, Belarus was like a black hole on the map of Europe. Nobody was interested a lot with what was going on there. We were considered as an appendix of Russia. We didn’t have our voice,” she said.