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West cries foul as Belarus protest leader Kolesnikova sentenced to 11 years

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KYIV, Sept 6 – Maria Kolesnikova, a person of the leaders of mass road protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko previous 12 months, was sentenced on Monday to 11 years in jail, main to an outcry from Western international locations.

Kolesnikova, 39, experienced been detained right after ripping up her passport to avert Belarusian protection forces from deporting her in a standoff at the Ukrainian border in September.

The musician-turned-politician became a single of the faces of the mass opposition movement through the August 2020 presidential election, which the protesters say was rigged to lengthen Lukashenko’s grip on ability.

Lukashenko, who has denied electoral fraud, has been in workplace in the previous Soviet republic because 1994 and has confronted fresh Western sanctions because launching a violent crackdown on his opponents.

Kolesnikova and another senior opposition determine, Maxim Znak, ended up charged with extremism and seeking to seize energy illegally. Both equally denied wrongdoing and Kolesnikova known as the fees absurd.

Znak was sentenced to 10 decades in prison. Both of those prisoners will attractiveness the verdict, Znak’s law firm advised reporters.

The European Union denounced the verdict, when Britain’s international minister called it an assault on defenders of democracy.

“The EU deplores the constant blatant disrespect by the Minsk regime of the human rights and elementary freedoms of the persons of Belarus,” the EU’s spokesperson said in a statement.

The United States condemned the “politically determined conviction and shameful sentencing” of the two and named the fees in opposition to them bogus, Secretary of Point out Antony Blinken explained.

“These sentencings are additional evidence of the regime’s full disregard for the human rights and essential freedoms of the people today of Belarus,” Blinken mentioned in a assertion.

Poland condemned the sentencing as a crushing of human rights intended to intimidate the men and women of Belarus. “This repression ought to not go unanswered,” Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz claimed on Twitter.

Would make coronary heart indicator

Kolesnikova, and Maxim Znak, attend a court hearing in Minsk, Belarus August 4, 2021
Kolesnikova, and Maxim Znak, attend a court docket listening to in Minsk, Belarus August 4, 2021
Ramil Nasibulin/BelTA/Handout via Reuters

Belarus has denied committing human legal rights abuses and portrayed the protesters as bent on violent revolution, backed by foreign powers.

Footage from the Sputnik Belarus channel showed the two prisoners in a glass cage ahead of the verdict. Kolesnikova elevated her handcuffed hands to make her trademark heart indication and smiled for the cameras.

Exiled opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter: “Maria & Maksim are the heroes for Belarusians. The routine wants us to see them crushed & fatigued. But glance – they are smiling & dancing.”

“They know – we will launch them much before than these 11 several years. Their terms should not frighten us – Maksim and Maria wouldn’t want this,” she additional.

The demo, which began final thirty day period, was shut to the general public on countrywide safety grounds. The situation of the case, the investigators and the witnesses were being not disclosed. Dozens of persons came to the court making on Monday, according to numerous video clips circulating on social media.

Kolesnikova was among tens of hundreds of men and women detained after the protests commenced.

She was just one of three ladies, all political novices, who joined forces to front very last year’s election marketing campaign against Lukashenko just after greater-profile male candidates were barred from standing.

Viktor Babariko, a person of the males who tried to stand versus Lukashenko, was jailed in July for 14 several years.

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