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Belarus opens terrorism case against exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

The Belarusian Attorney General’s Office has opened a criminal case against exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya) for allegedly preparing terrorist acts. Former Belarusian law enforcement officers belonging to Warsaw-based the organization By_Pol have also been charged in the case.

“A few days ago the above-mentioned persons attempted to carry out explosions and arson in Minsk and other cities. [...] According to the case materials, the organizers’ plans were to accuse government representatives of committing actions that endangered the lives of people,” the department declared in a statement on Monday, March 29.

The Belarusian Attorney General’s Office added that a “citizen Maleychuk was detained red-handed” and testified against the alleged organizers. On March 26, a man with this last name was shown during a broadcast by the state television channel Belarus-1. According to the news report, he planned to detonate improvised explosives in Minsk and Pechi, a military town in the Minsk region.

Spokespeople for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya commented on the charges as follows: “Nobody is laughing at the jokes about Nick and Mike any more, so the Attorney General’s Office has suggested a new meme.” Spokespeople for By_Pol have yet to comment on the case.

On March 25, Belarus commemorated Freedom Day — an unofficial holiday marking the date in 1918 when the Belarusian Democratic Republic declared its independence. While there were no large-scale street protests, more than 200 people were detained countrywide. Several hundred others were detained on Saturday, March 27, after opposition figures called on Belarusians to take to the streets. 

On March 24, By_Pol announced that the Belarusian security forces were allegedly planning a “terrorist attack” on an interior ministry building on Freedom Day, as part of an attempt to “discredit the opposition movement.” On March 26, the Belarusian Interior Ministry reported that it had prevented terrorist attacks in Minsk and Pechy, alleging that they were planned by By_Pol. President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) then issued instructions for the officers who allegedly prevented the attacks to be presented with awards.

By_Pol is an organization that works out of Poland and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is living in exile in Lithuania. The opposition leader is facing several criminal investigations in Belarus. While the Belarusian authorities have demanded her extradition, Vilnius has responded that “hell will freeze over” before they hand Tikhanovskaya to Minsk.

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