Daily US Times: Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova has been sentenced to 11 years in jail by a Belarusian court on Monday. Ms Kolesnikova was a prominent opposition figure who led mass street protests against President Alexander Lukashenko. This is the latest move in a widespread crackdown on government critics following a contested election last year.
Belarusian state media Belta reported that Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak, another opposition activist, were charged with extremism and conspiring to “seize state power in an unconstitutional way” in a trial held in the capital Minsk behind closed doors.
Znak was sentenced to 10 years in jail and he is also a key member of the coordination council formed by opponents of Lukashenko’s authoritarian government.
Kolesnikova was one of three women who joined forces last year to front the opposition’s campaign against President Alexander Lukashenko after prominent male opposition candidates were barred from the presidential race.
The trio were the face of a protest against election rigging and Lukashenko that sent tens of thousands of people onto the streets to demand political change during the country’s election.
The demonstrators, even the independent observers, alleged that the vote was rigged to extend Lukashenko’s 27-year rule.
President Lukashenko, who is considered the last dictator i n Europe, denied electoral fraud. He has faced sanctions from the United States and other Western governments since claiming victory and launching a crackdown against opponents last year.