Belarus starts trial of opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya's husband

KYIV (Reuters) - A court in Belarus on Thursday began the trial of exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's husband Sergei, who is accused of organising riots and inciting social hatred.

Sergei Tsikhanouskiy, a well-known video blogger, planned to participate in last August's presidential election but he was detained in May 2020 and could face up to 15 years in prison.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya took part in the election against incumbent leader Alexander Lukashenko instead of her husband and later left the country, fearing persecution.

Only state media were allowed to attend the closed hearing in a prison and they showed a video in which Tsikhanouskiy and his comrades entered the hall in handcuffs and then were put in a cage.

"During this time, Sergei did not agree to any deal with the regime. He remains the same proud and unshakable person," Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Telegram messenger.

The election that handed Lukashenko a new term as president sparked mass protests over allegations of vote rigging, which the authorities denied.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Belarus asked a court to hand down a 15-year jail term to former banker Viktor Babariko, who was taken into custody last year after challenging Lukashenko at the election.

(Writing by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Angus MacSwan)