Minsk court ruling keeps Maryia Kalesnikava behind bars

Maryia Kalesnikava, a member of the board of the opposition Coordination Council (CC), will remain in custody, her defence lawyer Lyudmila Kazak said on Monday.

On September 21, Minsk city court considered the lawyer’s appeal against imprisoning Kalesnikava. The judge ruled to let the detainer stand and further hold the opposition activist in the pre-trial detention centre in the town of Zhodzina.

Last week, 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.

“They failed to voice any reasoning in our case, there was only a ‘directive’ part. We still do not know the judge’s arguments; we will get the information when there is a copy of the ruling. And on the basis of it, we are going to file more complaints,” Lyudmila Kazak told Belsat TV.

Maryia Kalesnikava was not taken to court; she was engaged in the hearing via video link. Her family, friends, and European diplomats came to the courtroom to show support for Maryia.

Kalesnikava wants to bring to justice KGB officers who voiced death threats

On September 7, Kalesnikava was kidnapped near the National Art Museum in Minsk. Unidentified people drove her away in an unknown direction. As it turned ou 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“They warned that if I did not voluntarily leave the territory of the Republic of Belarus, I would still be withdrawn – ‘alive or ‘in pieces’,” Maryia said.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, CC 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. She was taken to prison in Minsk; later, she was transferred to the detention centre in Zhodzina. Belarusian human rights defenders put her on the political prisoners’ list that includes 58 names.

Prominent Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich is the only one of the seven members of the board of the Coordination Council who has not been directly affected by the Belarusian authorities’ harsh measures against the Council. The other representatives were jailed (Liliya Ulasava, Maryia Kalesnikava, Maksim Znak) or forced out of the country (Pavel Latushka, Volha Kavalkova). Another member, strike movement activist Syarhei Dyleuski, was released on September, 18 after spending 25 days in prison.

As reported earlier, 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; it comprises about 600 members. 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.

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