‘Freedom is worth fighting for’: Belarus activists go on trial

Key opposition determine Maria Kolesnikova is accused of conspiring to grab energy over position in anti-government protests.

Leading members of the Belarusian opposition went on trial on Wednesday, a part of a multi-pronged crackdown on dissent within the ex-Soviet nation that was rocked by months of protests over a disputed presidential election.

Maria Kolesnikova, a high member of the opposition Coordination Council, has been in custody since her arrest in September.

She is accused of conspiring to grab energy, creating an extremist organisation and calling for actions damaging state safety.

The trial of Kolesnikova and lawyer Maxim Znak, one other main member of the Coordination Council who faces the identical costs, began behind closed doorways on the Minsk Regional Court within the Belarusian capital.

They might resist 12 years in jail if convicted.

Kolesnikova, who helped coordinate opposition protests that erupted after the August 2020 presidential vote, resisted authorities’ makes an attempt to pressure her to go away the nation.

When officers of the Belarusian safety company drove her to the border with Ukraine in September to forcibly expel her, she ripped up her passport and walked again into Belarus to face arrest.

“Freedom is worth fighting for. Do not be afraid to be free,” she wrote in final 12 months’s message from jail conveyed by her lawyer. “I do not regret anything and would do the same again.”

Just earlier than the beginning of her trial, Kolesnikova stated in a word from jail that authorities provided to launch her from custody if she asks for a pardon and offers a repentant interview to state media.

She insisted that she was harmless and rejected the provide.

Protests immediate crackdown

Just as Kolesnikova and Znak went on trial, a Belarusian Olympic sprinter flew from Tokyo to Europe after resisting an try by her group’s officers to forcibly ship her home to Belarus after a dispute over teaching.

The 24-year-old runner Krystsina Tsimanouskaya stated she could possibly be in peril if she returns to her homeland.

Belarus was shaken by months of protests fuelled by President Alexander Lukashenko’s being awarded a sixth time period after final 12 months’s vote, which the opposition and the West denounced as a sham.

He responded to the demonstrations with a large crackdown that noticed greater than 35,000 folks arrested and 1000’s crushed by police.

Authorities have ramped up their crackdown on dissent in latest weeks, concentrating on impartial journalists and democracy activists in lots of of raids.

On Wednesday, the Belarusian state safety company that also goes underneath its Soviet-era identify KGB arrested Uladzimir Matskevich, a professor of philosophy who based a high impartial college, after raiding his condo in Minsk.

Matskevich’s colleague, Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya, who was a member of the opposition Coordination Council, and Ulad Vialichka, the previous head of EuroBelarus non-government group, had been additionally arrested following searches at their residences.

The Viasna human rights centre stated authorities accused them of inflicting harm to state safety and inciting strife.

On Tuesday, Vitaly Shishov, a Belarusian activist who ran a bunch in Ukraine serving to Belarusians fleeing persecution, was discovered hanged in a park within the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Ukrainian police have opened a probe to research whether or not it was a suicide or a homicide made to appear like suicide.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the nation’s legislation enforcement companies Wednesday to raised shield Belarusians who sought refuge in his nation.

“Every Belarusian who could become a target for criminals because of political stance must receive special reliable protection,” Zelenskyy stated.

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