On Monday, the Belarusian court sentenced one of the country’s main opposition figures, Maria Kolesnikova, who led protests against President Alexander Lukashenko in 2020, to 11 years in prison for finding her guilty of attacking against national security.
Both she and her lawyer, Maxim Znak, also sentenced to 10 years in prison, were accused of conspiring to seize power and calling for actions that threatened national security.
The sentences were announced by the team of Viktor Babariko, another detained opponent for whom Kolesnikova had worked.
Lukashenko, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, has ruled Belarus since 1994, when the Soviet Union fell.
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Dissidents Arrested Before Trial
The two dissidents had been in detention for 11 months and at the beginning of August they started being tried in a closed-door case, about which little information has been released.
Kolesnikova, 39, was one of three women at the head of the protest movement against Lukashenko, along with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the presidential candidate, and Veronika Tsepkalo.
Below is a video from August 2021 of a Belarus activist who was found dead.
Belarus activist found dead in Ukraine
Mobilization began in August 2020 to protest the re-election – which the opposition claims was obtained through fraud – of Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.
The regime violently repressed the historic movement, with thousands of arrests, forced exiles and the closure of political organizations, media and NGOs.
See an August 2020 report on the protests in Belarus.
Two hundred thousand people take to the streets of Belarus’ capital in anti-government protests