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Opposition activists in Belarus given lengthy prison sentences

Picture courtesy: BBC/Reuters

A court in Belarus on Monday sentenced two leading opposition activists for trying to threaten national security.

Protest organizer Maria Kolesnikova was jailed for 11 years while lawyer Maxim Znak received 10 years.

Both activists were accused of conspiring of seizing power, creating an extremist organization and calling for actions damaging state security.

Kolesnikova and Znak stood trial behind closed doors, with their families only allowed to be present at the sentencing hearing.

Kolesnikova resisted authorities' attempts to force her to leave the country. When officers of the Belarusian security agency drove her to the border with Ukraine last September to forcible expel her, she ripped up her passport and walked back into Belarus to face arrest.

"For many, Maria has become an example of resilience and the fight between good and evil. I'm proud of her," Kolesnikova's father Alexander, told the Associated Press. "It's not a verdict, but rather the revenge of the authorities."

Belarus was shaken by months of protests after President Lukashenko's was awarded a sixth term after the August 2020 presidential vote that the opposition and the West denounced as a shame. He responded to the demonstrations with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousand beaten by police.

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