Jailed opposition activist Maryia Kalesnikava accused of ‘conspiracy’ and ‘extremism’

Маryia Kalesnikava.

Maryia Kalesnikava, a member of the opposition Coordination Council and activist in might-have-been presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka’s campaign office, has faced two new charges.

Maryia is accused of ‘conspiracy to seize state power in an unconstitutional way’ (Article 357-1 of the Criminal Code), and ‘establishing an extremist group and leading it’ (Article 361-1), Babaryka’s team informs. As reported earlier, two new criminal cases under the same articles were opened against lawyer and prisoner of conscience Maksim Znak.

Maryia Kalesnikava says no to proposal to meet with Lukashenka – lawyer

On September 7, Maryia Kalesnikava, who became Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya‘s associate, was kidnapped near the National Art Museum in Minsk. Unidentified people drove her away in an unknown direction. As it turned out later, the politician spent half a day in the Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption; then she was taken to the State Security Committee (KGB), where the chekists demanded she voluntarily depart from Belarus. According to her, several KGB officers voiced threats to take her life.

“They warned that if I did not voluntarily leave the territory of the Republic of Belarus, I would still be withdrawn – ‘alive or ‘in pieces’,” Maryia said.

On September 8, Coordination Council spokesman Anton Radnyankou and secretary Ivan Krautsou who were forced out of Belarus gave a press conference in Kyiv. They told how the KGB failed to push Kalesnikava out the country. In the neutral zone, she destroyed her passport, jumped out of the car and returned to the Belarusian border.

In mid September, Kalesnikava was charged under Art. 361-3 of the Criminal Code (‘calling for actions aimed at harming the national security with the use of mass media and the Internet’). Belarusian human rights defenders put her on the political prisoners’ list that includes 246 names at the moment.

In December, the Prosecutor General’s Office launched criminal proceedings over conspiring, establishing ‘an extremist group’, being in control of it, financing its activities against members of the Coordination Council, including Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Maryia Kalesnikava, Maksim Znak, Pavel Latushka, Volha Kavalkova, Syarhei Dyleuski, and other Belarusian activists.

‘Extremism’ coupled with ‘conspiracy’: More criminal charges against Coordination Council