KYIV (Reuters) – Maria Kolesnikova, one of many leaders of mass avenue protests towards Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko final yr, was sentenced to 11 years in jail on Monday, the state-run Belta news company and the Belarusian opposition reported.
Kolesnikova, 39, was detained after ripping up her passport to forestall Belarusian safety forces from deporting her in a standoff on the Ukrainian border in September.
The musician-turned-politician grew to become one of many faces of the mass opposition motion through the August 2020 presidential election, which the protesters say was rigged to lengthen Lukashenko’s grip on energy.
Lukashenko, who has denied electoral fraud, has been in workplace in the previous Soviet republic since 1994 and has confronted recent Western sanctions since launching a violent crackdown on his opponents.
Kolesnikova and one other senior opposition determine, Maxim Znak, had been charged with extremism and attempting to seize energy illegally. Both denied wrongdoing and Kolesnikova known as the costs absurd.
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Znak was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Footage from the Sputnik Belarus channel confirmed the 2 in a glass cage forward of the decision. Kolesnikova raised her handcuffed fingers to make her trademark coronary heart signal and smiled for the cameras.
“Maria & Maksim are the heroes for Belarusians. The regime needs us to see them crushed & exhausted. But look – they’re smiling & dancing,” mentioned exiled opposition determine Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Twitter. “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.”
The trial, which started final month, was closed to the general public on nationwide safety grounds. The circumstances of the case, the investigators and the witnesses weren’t disclosed. Dozens of individuals got here to the courtroom constructing on Monday, in accordance to a number of movies circulating on social media.
Kolesnikova was amongst tens of 1000’s of individuals detained after the protests started.
She was considered one of three ladies, all political novices, who joined forces to entrance final yr’s election marketing campaign towards Lukashenko after higher-profile male candidates had been barred from standing.
Viktor Babariko, one of many males who tried to stand towards Lukashenko, was jailed for 14 years in July.
(Writing by Matthias Williams in Kyiv; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Hugh Lawson)
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