Belarus Opposition Leader Sentenced to 11 Years Behind Bars
Belarusian opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova—who helped coordinate a major protest movement against authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko—has been sentenced to 11 years in prison after a closed trial, according to The Guardian. Kolesnikova and her lawyer, Maksim Znak, had been charged with conspiracy to seize power and damaging national security following the protests over the country’s disputed election, in which Lukashenko claimed a sixth term. “This verdict is illegal and unfounded,’’ their lawyer said. “It is not based on evidence. During the trial, neither their guilt, nor even the commission of the crimes imputed, was confirmed.”
Authorities arrested Kolesnikova last September, when she reportedly ripped up her passport instead of obeying orders to leave the country. Along with two other women, Kolesnikova helped lead mass protests against Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime.
Members of the opposition council voiced their support for Kalesnikova and Maxim Znak, another opposition party member, and condemned their imprisonment, calling for their immediate release. They “aren’t guilty of anything,” says Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, an opposition leader and presidential candidate against Lukashenko.
This is the latest of Lukashenko’s draconian measures to silence resistance groups.