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The trial of the opposition Kolesnikwa begins in Belarus

The trial of the opposition Kolesnikwa begins in Belarus

FifthOf the three women who became symbols of the protest movement in Belarus last year, two are now in exile. Swetlana Tichanowskaja Veronica Zypkalo left the country under pressure from the Belarusian authorities and is now in Lithuania and Poland. However, Maria Kolesnikova resisted the kidnapping in September 2020 by tearing her passport. She has been detained ever since. The allegations in the operation, which began on Wednesday, carry significant weight: They relate to a plot to seize power, create an extremist organization and threaten national security. Kolesnikova and her assistant lawyer Maxim Snack face up to twelve years in prison.

But Kolesnikova not only resisted her forced deportation, but also continued to oppose the methods of Governor Alexander Lukashenko. Rather than allow herself to be intimidated, the 39-year-old is repeatedly posting optimism from prison. This was also the case on the day the trial began: a video clip of Kolesnikova, smiling and wearing lipstick, showed how she forms a heart and her hand in the usual cage of defendants in Belarus. In an interview published on Wednesday with the Russian online television station TVDuchd, she said of her dealings with the Belarusian authorities: “Do not believe them, do not be afraid, do not ask for anything – and laugh.” A fair trial cannot be expected.

Next Monday, August 9, marks the anniversary of the fictitious presidential election that marked the beginning of mass protests in Belarus. Since then, the dictator has suppressed dissent, and thousands of Belarusians have been arrested and ill-treated. Only on Tuesday did the authorities shut down four other NGOs – there are now more than sixty – that were spreading “subversive ideas” and whose activities harmed national security. Among them is Human Constanta, which fights for the rights of migrants on the Belarusian-Polish border.

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According to the Belarusian Journalists Association, a journalist from the southwest of the country was sentenced to one and a half years in prison and a heavy fine earlier this week for insulting Lukashenko and two police officers in the now-deleted Telegram group; He was listed as a political prisoner by human rights activists in Vyazna.