Maria Kalesnikawa and Maksim Znak were sentenced on Monday to 11 and 10 years in a penal colony. The judgments for Belarusian opponents were condemned by the head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken. According to the diplomat, they are “shameful” and show “total disregard” of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime for human rights.
Maria Kalesnikawa and Maksim Znak were sentenced on Monday to 11 and 10 years in a penal colony. Belarusian oppositionists have been held in custody since September 2020. Their trial began on August 4 behind closed doors.
They were accused of calling for actions to the detriment of national security, of conspiring to seize power in the country, and creating an extremist organization. They were both first employees of the staff of the former banker Viktar Babaryka, who, however, was not allowed to run in the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020, and later the opposition leader Sviatlana Cichanouska.
After her forced emigration, they joined the presidium of the opposition Coordination Council, the aim of which was to dialogue with the authorities on resolving the post-election crisis and holding new elections.
Blinken: This is further evidence of the regime’s complete disregard for human rights
In a statement, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, referred to the verdicts against Belarusian opponents. “The United States condemns the politically motivated convictions and the shameful punishment imposed on representatives of the Belarusian opposition (…) is further evidence of the regime’s complete disregard for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Belarusians,” he said.
The US Secretary of State emphasized that Belarus was failing to fulfill its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and was violating the rights of its citizens enshrined in the Belarusian constitution. He also appealed to the Lukashenka regime to release all political prisoners, including Znak and Kalesnikawa.
According to human rights defenders, there are already 657 prisoners of conscience in Belarus.
Main photo source: Jelena Tołkaczewa / TUT.by