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Belarusian opposition leader demands release of sentenced activists

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian opposition, who attended the Economic Forum in Karpacz, south-western Poland, demanded that Maria Kolesnikova and Maksim Znak, activists recently given lengthy prison sentences, were set free.

Poland demands release of political prisoners in Belarus: President

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On Monday, a court in Minsk sentenced opposition activists Maria Kolesnikova and Maksim Znak to 11 and 10 years in prison respectively. Both were held in custody from September 2020. Their trial took place behind closed doors.

During a press conference at the Economic Forum in Karpacz, Ms Tsikhanouskaya demanded that Ms Kolesnikova and Mr Znak be released. There are another 650 political prisoners also currently in custody.

She stressed that the sentenced activists were innocent and that they had been convicted because they had stood up against the undemocratic regime of Alyaksandar Lukashenka. “We will not stop until everyone in Belarus is free,” she assured.

She judged that sanctions imposed by the international community could stop the brutal reactions of the regime in Minsk.

“Maria and Maksim are innocent, they have always acted in the name of the public,” said Tatiana Chomicz, the sister of Ms Kolesnikova. She emphasised that the entire trial took place behind closed doors, was not transparent, adding that the sentence was only a demonstration of the strength of the regime. She assured her that her sister was now in good shape and highlighted the need for appeal to international organisations and politicians.

Ms Kolesnikova and Mr Znak have been accused of calls to actions to the detriment of national security, conspiracy to seize power in the country, and the creation of an extremist organisation.

The sentenced activists were employees of the staff of the former banker Viktar Babaryka, who was not allowed to run in the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020. This year, he was sentenced to 14 years at a penal colony for alleged financial embezzlement.

After Mr Babaryka’s arrest in June 2020, both oppositionists joined presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s team, and after her forced emigration, they joined the presidium of the opposition Coordination Council. This body, which was formed around Ms Tsikhanouskaya, set itself the goal of a dialogue with the authorities on solving the post-election crisis and holding new elections.


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