HRODNA, Belarus -- Three associates of jailed Belarusian blogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, the husband of opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, have gone on trial in the western city of Hrodna.
The October district court opened the trial of Dzmitry Furmanau, Yauhen Raznichenka, and Uladzimer Kniha on January 18 for organizing mass disorder. Raznichenka and Kniha are also charged with assaulting a police officer.
The defendants were arrested in late May 2020 after police disrupted public events in Hrodna to collect signatures to support Tsikhanouskaya's bid to become a presidential candidate.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.
Tsikhanouski was arrested at the same time and later charged with the organization and preparation of actions that severely violated public order and disrupting the work of the Central Election Commission.
Tsikhanouski is the owner of a popular YouTube channel called The Country For Life, which challenges the Belarusian authorities.
When Tsikhanouski's candidacy was rejected by election officials, his wife took over and ran for president. She became the main challenger to Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the authoritarian leader who has run the country since 1994.
The official results of the August election that Lukashenka claims to have won sparked mass protests, with Tsikhanouskaya's supporters and opposition figures claiming she was the victor.
Since then, Lukashenka has overseen a violent crackdown on protesters by law enforcement, detaining thousands of people -- 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.