Maria Kolesnikova, Belarus protest leader, sentenced to 11 years in jail

Kolesnikova and one other opposition activist, Maxim Znak, had been charged with extremism and conspiring to “seize state energy in an unconstitutional means” in a trial held within the capital Minsk behind closed doorways, Belarusian state media Belta reported.

Znak, who can be a key member of the coordination council fashioned by opponents of Lukashenko’s authoritarian authorities, was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Kolesnikova, a musician-turned-activist, was one in all three girls who joined forces final 12 months to entrance the opposition’s marketing campaign towards Lukashenko after outstanding male opposition candidates had been barred from the presidential race.

The trio had been the face of a protest motion that despatched tens of 1000’s of Belarusians onto the streets to demand political change in the course of the nation’s election. The demonstrators, in addition to impartial observers, alleged that the vote was rigged to increase Lukashenko’s 27-year rule.

President Lukashenko, who denied electoral fraud, has confronted sanctions from the US and different Western governments since claiming victory and launching a crackdown towards opponents final 12 months.

Kolesnikova was arrested final September and brought to the border, the place she was ordered to go away the nation. As a substitute, she reportedly ripped up her passport, refusing to be compelled into exile.

“We demand the rapid launch of Maria & Maksim, who aren’t responsible of something. It is terror towards Belarusians who dare to face as much as the regime. We can’t cease till everyone is free in Belarus,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a Belarusian opposition chief who ran for president and led protests with Kolesnikova, mentioned on Twitter Monday, after the decision was introduced.

Tikhanovskaya, who stood in for her husband as an opposition candidate after he was imprisoned within the run-up to the vote, fled to neighboring Lithuania together with her kids final August after contesting preliminary election outcomes that handed Lukashenko a landslide win.

Tikhanovskaya referred to as Kolesnikova and Znak “heroes for Belarusians.”

Exiled opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya makes her first public appearance in Vilnius, Lithuania in August 2020 after fleeing Belarus.

“The regime needs us to see them crushed & exhausted. However look – they’re smiling & dancing. They know – we are going to launch them a lot sooner than these 11 years. Their phrases should not frighten us — Maksim and Maria would not need this,” she added, sharing a video of the 2 opposition leaders standing in a glass cage for defendants in court docket.

Viktor Babaryka, an ex-banker who had tried to run towards Lukashenko earlier than he was arrested and imprisoned, mentioned in a put up on his Telegram channel Monday that Kolesnikova and Znak’s sentences could be appealed.

The US and a number of other European nations have issued statements condemning the court docket ruling and continued efforts to silence authorities opponents.

Biden issues executive order targeting Belarusian regime on anniversary of fraudulent election

“Regrettably, these sentencings are additional proof of the regime’s complete disregard for the human rights and basic freedoms of the individuals of Belarus. Ms. Kalesnikava and Mr. Znak deserved a clear judicial willpower of the bogus expenses levied towards them, which they didn’t obtain,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned in a press release Monday, calling the conviction “politically motivated” and “shameful.”

Final month, on the one-year anniversary of Belarus’ election, President Joe Biden issued a sweeping government order concentrating on members of the Belarusian regime concerned within the repression of human rights and democracy. On Monday, Blinken cited the order, reiterating the Biden administration’s requires “Belarusian authorities to start a real dialogue with the democratic opposition and members of civil society resulting in free and truthful elections below worldwide commentary.”

Germany on Monday promised to accentuate strain towards the Belarusian regime if it doesn’t change its behaviour in direction of civil rights, with the federal government spokesman Steffen Seibert calling the verdicts unjustified. UK International Secretary Domnic Raab mentioned Belarus was assaulting the defenders of democracy and freedom by jailing two opposition figures. The European Union has demanded the rapid and unconditional launch of Maria Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak.

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