Belarusian Protest Leader Maria Kolesnikova Goes on Trial

Maria Kolesnikova, one of the organizers of last year’s enormous street protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, went on trial and faces up to 12 years in jail on extremism allegations.

Kolesnikova was arrested in September after tearing up her passport to prevent Belarusian security officials from deporting her during a confrontation at the Ukrainian border.

Footage from Russia’s Sputnik station showed her laughing and dancing within the prisoner cage during the closed trial, as well as making a heart symbol with her hands, something she frequently did during last year’s demonstrations.

Kolesnikova became one of the faces of the huge opposition movement during the campaign for the presidential election last year, which protestors alleged was manipulated to extend Lukashenko’s grip on power.

After the demonstrations began, tens of thousands of people were imprisoned, including Kolesnikova.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Veronika Tsepkalo, and Maria Kolesnikova, all political newcomers, who banded together to lead the opposition against Lukashenko in last year’s election after higher-profile male candidates were prohibited from running.

Meanwhile, Viktor Babariko, a former Belarusian presidential candidate another Lukashenko critic, was sentenced to 14 years in prison last month.


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