Exiled Belarus opposition leader sentenced to 15 years in prison

A court in Belarus has sentenced exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to 15 years in prison.

Belarus's state-run news agency on Monday reported that the sentence was delivered in her absence at the court in the capital, Minsk. It says she was found guilty on charges including conspiring to overthrow the government.

Tsikhanouskaya ran in the 2020 presidential election in place of her detained husband, calling for the release of political prisoners and a fair election. She gained widespread public support amid growing discontent over President Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian policies.

Massive protests erupted in the wake of the election, which her supporters denounced as rigged.

Tsikhanouskaya went to Lithuania in the face of an intensified crackdown by Lukashenko's government.

Following the court's decision, Tsikhanouskaya wrote on social media that, "today I don't think about my own sentence." She vowed to continue to fight for freedom.

Lukashenko's clampdown on pro-democratic movements is facing growing criticism from the rest of the world.

Earlier this month, a prominent human rights activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 was sentenced to 10 years in prison.