Mon, 18 Jan 2021

MINSK -- Syarhey Tsikhanouski, a jailed Belarusian vlogger who was arrested in May after he expressed willingness to take part in an August presidential election, has reportedly been charged with inciting social hatred, which would allow the authorities to extend his pretrial detention.

The Tut.by website quoted Tsikhanouski's lawyer, Viktar Matsekvich, on November 30 as saying that his client was 'outraged at the new charge,' which was made against him several days ago.

Tsikhanouski was arrested in late May and later charged with the organization and preparation of actions that severely violated public order and disrupting the work of the Central Election Commission.

According to his lawyer, Tsikhanouski was supposed to be released from pretrial detention in November, since there were no developments in the cases against him. By adding a new charge, the authorities found a way to keep Tsikhanouski in pretrial detention for another 18 months.

Tsikhanouski is the owner of a popular YouTube channel called The Country For Life, which frequently challenges the Belarusian authorities.

When Tsikhanouski's candidacy was rejected by election officials, his wife, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, took over and ran in the presidential election and became the main challenger to Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the authoritarian leader who has run the country since 1994.

The official results of the election handing victory to Lukashenka have sparked ongoing mass protests, with Tsikhanouskaya's supporters and opposition figures claiming she won the vote.

Lukashenka has overseen a violent crackdown on protesters by law enforcement that has seen thousands of people -- including media members -- detained and scores injured.

The European Union and the United States have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate ruler of Belarus, characterizing the election as fraudulent.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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