A Belarusian court sentenced two major opposition activists to long-term imprisonment on Monday. The latest move in the relentless crackdown by Belarusian authorities has been challenged in response to last year’s rebel protests.
Maria Kolesnikova, a top member of the opposition council, has been detained since she was arrested last September. A Minsk court convicted her of conspiring to seize power, creating an extremist organization, and seeking actions that undermine national security, and sentenced her to 11 years in prison.
Attorney Maxim Zanac, another key member of the Coordinating Council in the face of the same accusation, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Kolesnikova, who helped coordinate the opposition movement that broke out after the August 2020 presidential vote, resisted attempts by authorities to force her abroad. She broke her passport and was arrested back in Belarus when a Belarusian security agency official took her to the Ukrainian border and forcibly expelled her last September.
Kolesnikova and Znak were tried in a closed room and their families were allowed to attend the decision hearing only on Monday.
“For many, Maria has become an example of the battle between resilience and good and evil. Alexander, Kolesnikova’s father, told The Associated Press on Monday.” It’s not a verdict, it’s the revenge of the authorities. “
Belarus was upset by months of protests boosted by President Alexander Lukashenko’s sixth term after a presidential vote in August 2020, which the opposition and the West accused of being fake. He conducted a large-scale crackdown in response to the demonstration, arresting more than 35,000 people and beating thousands by police.