Belarus: Jailed Activist Subjected to Ill-Treatment

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Sergey Tihanovski is a popular blogger and a prominent political activist. In the spring of 2020, after announcing his intention to run for the next presidential election, he was arbitrarily arrested and placed in “administrative detention” which prevented him from submitting his candidacy before the deadline. His wife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya applied instead.

On May 29, 2020, during an election picket in support of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya as presidential candidate, Sergey Tihanovski was again arbitrarily arrested, alongside seven other activists. A baseless lawsuit was launched against them. Meanwhile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has emerged as one of the main opposition candidates in the elections. Incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed victory, despite numerous well-documented and compelling reports of voter fraud. Independent media reported testimonies from members of several local elections who alleged that Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya received several times more votes than Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Mass demonstrations against the disputed election result were suppressed by the police, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested and countless detainees were tortured and ill-treated. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya went into exile for fear of prosecution. Many of his close associates, including his closest campaign companion Maryia Kalesnikava, have been imprisoned. Hundreds of people have since been prosecuted and imprisoned after unfair trials for their role in these protests and other forms of peaceful dissent. Among them is Sergey Tihanovski who, on December 14, 2021, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on false charges, one of the harshest sentences against peaceful dissidents. He has since been the target of particularly harsh treatment in prison, including punishment for alleged violations.

As part of the sentences imposed on him by the prison administration, Sergey Tihanovski is not authorized to receive family visits or telephone calls. He is not allowed to meet his lawyer in complete confidentiality, to read, to send letters as well as to receive letters and parcels. He is also not allowed to receive warm clothes, while the cell is very cold, which puts his health at risk. As of September 30, he had spent 40 continuous days in a disciplinary solitary confinement cell (“Shizo”) under these conditions, and the duration of his placement in this cell had been extended several times.

Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Sergey Tihanovski.

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