Donald Trump Verdict Places U.S. Among Countries Prosecuting Opposition Leaders – Who Else is in the Group?

Former President Donald Trump joined the growing ranks of world leaders who faced criminal charges after leaving office. Many critics in the United States voiced concerns that such measures damaged the country’s global standing.

A jury convicted Trump on charges of falsifying business documents related to payments made to Michael Cohen, who had paid porn actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. While world leaders generally offered restrained comments on the verdict, some of Trump’s closest allies condemned the decision and urged him to continue fighting.

Many argued that Trump was being selectively targeted, citing the fact that other cases against him were opened around the same time and that Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg campaigned on promises to pursue legal action against Trump.

Trump claimed that his trial, which included a gag order preventing him from discussing the case, was intended to keep him from running in upcoming elections because Democrats “can’t win at the ballot box.” Biden condemned efforts to undermine the decision as “reckless” and “irresponsible,” while jokingly remarking that he was “not aware he was that powerful” in response to claims that he had orchestrated the trial.

Here are some other countries where opposition leaders or candidates have faced prosecution, sometimes even before elections.

In Russia, there is the ongoing saga of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to keep opposition leader Alexei Navalny out of office. Russian courts found Navalny guilty of violating probationary terms by leaving the country and sentenced him to 19 years in prison, where he died due to harsh conditions during his confinement.

U.S. intelligence officials concluded that Russia was responsible for poisoning Navalny, though the Russian government has denied any involvement.

In Hong Kong, 14 opposition figures were convicted of “conspiring to subvert state power,” a decision criticized by watchdog groups like Amnesty International as “unprecedented” and a sign of how the National Security Law is being used to suppress dissent.

Former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Lam Cheuk-ting, Helena Wong, and Raymond Chan are among the defendants who could face life in prison when sentenced later this year.

Prosecutors had targeted 47 democracy advocates who participated in an unofficial primary election that could have undermined the government’s authority.

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of using the courts to prevent his main political rival, Arvind Kejriwal, from running for office in upcoming elections.

Several leaders of an opposition alliance are under investigation, and Kejriwal’s party has alleged a “political conspiracy” by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Kejriwal remains in pre-trial detention while appealing an arrest for alleged corruption related to Delhi’s liquor policy.

Kejriwal, who was temporarily released from jail so he could campaign, has claimed that the elections will determine if India “remains a democracy” and has accused Modi of targeting rivals with criminal probes.

In Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was released from prison after the Supreme Court annulled his conviction for money laundering and corruption charges, citing bias in his case.

Lula, who was arrested as part of “Operation Car Wash,” allegedly traded favors with a construction company for an apartment on the beachfront. His arrest and conviction deeply divided Brazil and led to years of legal battles.

In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has jailed his political opponents, including opposition leader Nelson Pinero of the center-right Encuentro Ciudadano party, who was recently charged with inciting hatred.

The Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) allegedly entered Pinero’s house without a search warrant. Another politician and presidential candidate, Delsa Solorzano, has condemned the arrest, saying that “Nelson is one more political prisoner of this dictatorship, which has jailed 300 citizens for dissenting.”

Maduro also jailed opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and veteran politician Antonio Ledezma in 2017 for plotting to flee the country and violating house arrest conditions.

In Cambodia, opposition leader Kem Sokha was convicted of treason and sentenced to 27 years in prison. He appealed the charges, which Amnesty International called “baseless” and urged the country’s authorities to “end their ongoing crackdown against opposition groups.”

“Anyone who dares to speak out against the government is at risk,” warned Montse Ferrer, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research.

“Cambodian authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of everyone in the country including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and end the increasing restriction of civic space,” he added.