Belarus puts exiled opposition leader on trial on treason charges

By Tom Balmforth and John Irish (Reuters) - Belarus put exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on trial in absentia on treason charges on Tuesday, in what

the outspoken critic of veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko said would be a "farce and a show". Tsikhanouskaya, 40, fled Belarus after running against Lukashenko in the

2020 presidential election which was followed by mass protests over alleged electoral fraud. She faces a possible jail term of up to 15 years. Following a crackdown on

protesters, she became the head of an opposition-in-exile and denounced the election after Lukashenko, in power since 1994, declared himself the winner. Tsikhanouskaya, who

now lives in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, told Reuters in the Swiss resort of Davos that she did not expect the trial to be fair. "In Belarus there are no honest

trials. We live in absolute lawlessness in our country so tomorrow's trial will be a farce and a show but not real justice," Tsikhanouskaya said on Monday in an interview on the

sidelines of the World Economic Forum. She said she had asked for the necessary documents from the court-appointed lawyer, but had not received anything. The BelTa

state news agency said the trial had started on Tuesday morning. Tsikhanouskaya and several others were to be tried on charges of treason and attempting to seize power, the court

said before the trial. "Tsikhanouskaya, while on the territory of the Republic of Lithuania, proclaimed herself the winner of the last election... and the only national

leader elected by the Belarusian people," the General Prosecutor's Office said.