Belarus: Opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova sentenced to 11 years in prison

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Maria Kolesnikova, one of the leaders of last year’s mass protests against her president, was sentenced today to 11 years in prison. Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.

According to the Athenian News Agency, Kolesnikova and another opposition politician, Maxim Znak, were charged. categories for extremism and for an illegal attempt to seize power.

Both deny the allegations, and Kolsenikova called them “absurd.” Znak was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Kolesnikova, 39, who chairs the opposition Coordinating Council in Belarus, was arrested in September 2020 after tearing up her passport to prevent an attempt to deport her to neighboring Ukraine.

The former musician and later politician became a central figure in the mass mobilizations that took place in Belarus for the controversial re-election of Alexander Lukashenko to the presidency of the country in August 2020.

Mr Lukashenko, who has denied any wrongdoing, has been in power in the former Soviet republic since 1994 and has been subject to further sanctions from the West following the violent crackdown on his opponents.

“Maria and Maxim are the heroes for the Belarusians. The regime wants us to see them crushed and exhausted. “But look – they are smiling and dancing,” wrote another opposition figure, self-exiled Svetlana Tichanovskaya, on Twitter. “They know – we will release them much earlier than these 11 years. “Their terms should not scare us – Maxim and Maria would not want that,” he added.

The trial, which began last month, was held in camera for national security reasons.

The conditions of its conduct, the identity of the investigators and the witnesses who testified were not known.
Dozens of people gathered outside the courthouse today, according to several videos posted on social media.

Who is Maria Kolesnikova?

Kolesnikova is one of tens of thousands of people arrested since the protests began.

She is also one of three women, all newcomers to politics, who joined forces and led a major opposition campaign for Belarus last year.

Their goal was to transform the country’s political scene and remove him from power. Alexander Lukashenko.

The campaign was led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who emerged as Lukashenko’s main opponent.

The other two women are Veronica Tsepkalo, the wife of technology park founder Valeri Tsepkalo, whose candidacy was rejected, and the third was Kolesnikova, a key ally of former banker Victor Babariko and a former strong opponent of Lykoskalo.

Babariko, 57, was set to run in the presidential election against Alexander Lukashenko and was considered the most serious political opponent of the country’s leader.

However, he was arrested a few weeks before the election and sentenced in July to 14 years in prison.

He is accused of being bribed with “particularly large sums” when he was director of Belgazprombank, the Belarusian subsidiary of a bank owned by the Russian group Gazprom.

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