Court dismisses Maryia Kalesnikava’s complaint against extending detention

In court. Photo: TG @viktarbabarykaofficial

On January 16, a Minsk court considered and rejected the complaint of Maryia Kalesnikava’s defence against the extension of the detention period. Maria will remain in custody until March, 8.

The outcome of the hearing was predictable, lawyer Lyudmila Kazak said. However, the defence and Maryia are going to appeal the court decision.

Although the session was non-public, many unindifferent people, including representatives of EU member countries’ embassies, came to the building of Partyzanski district court of the Belarusian capital city.

“I was inspired by the people who came to support Maryia despite the frosty weather and the pandemic, who changed their Saturday’s plans,” said Lyudmila Kazak.

Maryia’s father Alyaksandr Kalesnikau was also present in court. According to the man, there is a correspondence issue arising: the latest letter he received from Maryia was dated by December, 20.

“I know that Masha does not want to upset me, but I worry about her health. The confinement conditions and transfers do affect her nervous state,” he said.

On January 8, Maryia Kalesnikava was transferred from Zhodzina prison to the pre-trial detention centre on Valadarski Street in Minsk on a night train.

Imprisoned opposition activist Maryia Kalesnikava: ‘We live in police state’

On September 7, Maryia Kalesnikava, a member of the board of the opposition Coordination Council and activist in Viktar Babaryka’s election team, 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“They warned that if I did not voluntarily leave the territory of the Republic of Belarus, I would still be withdrawn – ‘alive or ‘in pieces’,” Maryia said.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’). She may face up to five years in jail. Belarusian human rights defenders put her on the political prisoners’ list that includes 185 names at the moment.

In December, the Prosecutor General’s Office launched criminal proceedings over establishing ‘an extremist group’, being in control of it, financing its activities as well as conspiring 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