58 political prisoners in Belarus, Kalesnikava, Znak, Saley among them

Illya Saley and Maryia Kalesnikava

On September 10, Belarusian human rights defenders recognised Maryia Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak (members of the board of the opposition Coordination Council), and Illya Saley (lawyer at imprisoned presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka’s election office) as political prisoners.

As of today, there are 58 political prisoners in Belarus

In a joint statement, human rights centre Viasna, Belarusian PEN-Centre, Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) and other NGOs have called on the authorities to immediately release them.

According to the Belarusian Investigative Committee, they are suspects in a criminal case on public calls for actions aimed at causing damage to national security (part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code), initiated by the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Investigative Committee explains detention of Kalesnikava, Znak and Saley

“We strongly disagree with this legal qualification of the actions of Kalesnikava, Znak and Saley, and all members of the Coordination Council as a whole, as we consider it artificial, biased, essentially inconsistent with the nature and objectives of the Council and clearly politically motivated,” the statement reads.

The Coordination Council was established on the initiative of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya with an aim of overcoming the political crisis and ensuring harmony in society, as well as to protect the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Belarus, human rights defenders stressed.

“In addition, the absolutely illegal approaches demonstrated by the Belarusian secret services (kidnapping and attempted forcible deportation of Kalesnikava in continuation of the same illegal practices earlier applied to Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Volha Kavalkova), as well as threats of physical violence, which were expressed in relation to Kalesnikava in the Minsk office of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, further emphasize the political and illegal nature of this persecution,” they said.

Prominent Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich is the only one of the seven members of the board of the Council who remains at large. The other representatives were jailed (Liliya Ulasava, Maryia Kalesnikava, Syarhei Dyleuski, Maksim Znak) or forced out of the country (Pavel Latushka, Volha Kavalkova).

Opposition Coordination Council insists on dialogue, blames Lukashenka for rattling sabres

As reported earlier, Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s strongest rival Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya initiated the creation of the CC as part of taking urgent measures to restore law and order in Belarus as well as to ensure the transfer of power in the country. The Council comprises about 600 members. Last week, Belarus’ Prosecutor General initiated criminal proceedings over establishing the Council, naming it a ‘threat to national security’. The authorities believe the body aims at seizing power in Belarus.

belsat.eu. following spring96.org