HRODNA, Belarus -- Three associates of jailed Belarusian blogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, the husband of opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, have been handed prison terms in the western city of Hrodna as the authorities continue to tighten their clampdown on dissent.
The court on June 2 sentenced Uladzimer Kniha to four years in a maximum-security prison, Yauhen Raznichenka to 3 1/2 years, and Dzmitry Furmanau to two years in a general security prison.
Judge Volha Bekushava found the three guilty of organizing mass disorder. Raznichenka and Kniha were also found guilty of assaulting police.
The defendants were arrested in late May 2020 after police intervened at public events in Hrodna to collect signatures to support Tsikhanouski's bid to become president.
Tsikhanouski was arrested at the same time and charged later with the organization and preparation of actions that severely violated public order and disrupting the work of the Central Election Committee.
Tsikhanouski is the owner of a popular YouTube channel called The Country For Life, which criticized the authorities.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.
When Tsikhanouski's candidacy was rejected by election officials, his wife took over and ran in the presidential election.
She was the main challenger to Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has run the country since 1994.
The results of the August election that Lukashenka claims to have won sparked mass protests, with Tsikhanouskaya's supporters and opposition figures accusing the authoritarian ruler of rigging the vote and that their candidate was the victor.
Since then, Lukashenka has overseen a violent crackdown on protesters by law enforcement, detaining thousands -- including media members -- and injuring scores.
The European Union and the United States have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate ruler of Belarus, characterizing the election as fraudulent.