‘Blatant disrespect of human rights’: EU condemns stiff sentences imposed on Kalesnikava, Znak

Queue in front of court building. Minsk, 6 September 2021. Photo: euroradio / Telegram

On September 6, the day of passing the sentence in the case of Belarusian opposition activist Maryia Kalesnikava and prominent lawyer Maksim Znak, the European Union issued a statement, reiterating its demands for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Belarus, including Kalesnikava and Znak.

“In August 2020, Maryia Kalesnikava, together with Ms Tsikhanouskaya and Ms Tsapkala, became a symbol of the movement for democratic Belarus. In a trial behind closed doors, together with a prominent lawyer, Mr Znak, she was tried on unfounded charges of ‘conspiring to seize state power in an unconstitutional way’, ‘calling for actions aimed at damaging the national security of Belarus through the use of media and the Internet’ and ‘establishing and leading and an extremist group’,” the statement reads.

Again, the bloc deplored ‘the continuous blatant disrespect by the Minsk regime of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Belarus’ and vowed to ‘continue its efforts to promote accountability for the brutal repression by the Belarusian authorities’.

The trial which kicked off on August 4 was held behind the closed doors, but today’s pronouncement of the verdict was public. The two defendants are known to have denied all the charges. Today Maryia Kalesnikava has been sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment in a minimum security penal colony, Maksim Znak – to 10 years in a medium security penal colony.

On Monday morning, there was a long line of people who wanted to show support for Maryia Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak near the building of Minsk district court. Notably, plainclothes people with cameras were filming those standing in the queue, Euroradio reports. What is more, the security forces did not let foreign diplomats to enter the courtroom.

According to witnesses, Maksim and Maryia had cuffs on their hands, which did not prevent Maryia from showing a sign of heart.

Opposition activist Maryia Kalesnikava, reputed lawyer Maksim Znak get heavy jail terms