Maria Kalesnikava faces up to 12 years in prison; the EU will add Belarusian judges and prosecutors to the sanctions lists; journalists detained in Mahiliou went on a hunger strike
13 May 2021 | Voice of Belarus
Maria Kalesnikava faces up to 12 years behind bars
Investigation into the criminal case against Maria Kalesnikava, the leader of the Belarusian protests, has been completed. Maria has received an indictment – she faces up to 12 years in prison. Kalesnikava is charged with calling for actions threatening national security, conspiracy to seize power, and creating an extremist group.
Maria Kalesnikava, a renowned musician and art manager, became Viktar Babaryka’s presidential campaign manager in June 2020 after the arrest of the politician himself and his son, Eduard Babaryka, the former head of the presidential campaign staff. After the headquarters of the opposition candidates united their campaigns in July 2020, she became one of the most prominent protest leaders along with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo. After the presidential elections, Maria joined the presidium of the Coordination Council created by Tsikhanouskaya and participated in protest marches. On 6 September 2020, Kalesnikava was abducted by security forces in downtown Minsk, and later on they tried to expel her from the country. But, on the Belarus-Ukraine border, Maria ripped her passport into pieces and refused to leave. Then, she was put into custody where she has been for more than 8 months.
Belarusian judges and prosecutors will be included in the EU sanctions lists
The Lithuanian Seimas hosted MEP Michael Gahler’s press conference with Lithuanian parliamentarians and relatives of Belarusian political prisoners. Michael Gahler noted that he had been following the case of Pavel Sieviaryniec, the leader of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, and knows that the name of the judge presiding over the case is Iryna Lanchava. “I will definitely pass her name on to my Brussels colleagues so that she is included in the sanctions list when the court verdict is delivered. It is very important that everyone who contributes to such processes – judges, prosecutors, investigators, police leadership – are immediately included in our sanctions list,” said Michael Gahler.
Žygimantas Pavilionis, chair of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs, also said that those who contributed to unfair trials will be included in the “blacklists”. “Everyone should know that crimes have no borders, and there will be a reaction to what is happening now in Belarus, at least on our territories,” he said.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met with the President of Greece
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met with the Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou. Tsikhanouskaya thanked Greece for the fact that its ambassadors did not present their credentials to Lukashenko, spoke about the repressions in Belarus, trials of political prisoners, journalists and students, detention conditions in prisons, and asked Greece to accept repressed Belarusians and families of political prisoners for rehabilitation. The parties discussed EU actions, the fourth sanctions package, and the EU Comprehensive Assistance Plan for Belarus.
Journalists detained in Mahiliou went on a hunger strike
Yesterday, journalists Aliaksandr Burakou and Uladzimir Laptsevich went to the Mahiliou regional court to cover the 12 May trial of Pavel Sieviaryniec, Iryna Shchasnaya, and others.
Twenty minutes before the start of the trial, police expelled everyone who wanted to support the political prisoners from the courthouse, and the journalists were detained for allegedly “participating in an unauthorized mass event”. Now, they are awaiting trial in a temporary detention facility.
Aliaksandr Burakou and Uladzimir Laptsevich went on a hunger strike protesting against their detention. This was reported by the temporary detention center employees when relatives attempted to deliver parcels to the journalists: food was not accepted.
Journalist Tatsiana Kapitonava was detained in Minsk today. The Belarusian Association of Journalists reports that Tatsiana was recording the Emerge conference in the Startup Family co-working space.
Witnesses say that police came specifically for the journalist. She was taken to the Savetski police office, and her trial will take place tomorrow.
Thus, 15 media representatives are now imprisoned in Belarus.
6 years in prison for playing drums at the protests
Aliaksei Sanchuk was detained in November 2020 at a rehearsal of the drum band “We Demand that You Disperse”. The musicians played at the protest marches and actions and became one of the symbols of protests. He was never released after 15 days of administrative detention. According to the musicians, employees of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption beat Aliaksei during the arrest. The Maskouski district court of Minsk found Aliaksei guilty and sentenced him to 6 years in a maximum security colony. According to the prosecution representatives, Sanchuk blocked roadways in Minsk “under the guise of mass events”, clearly disobeyed police officers, shouted slogans, clapped his hands loudly, and waved a white-red-white flag. Aliaksei Sanchuk has a wife and 8-year-old daughter who were left behind at home.
A pensioner who defended a woman from riot police gets tougher punishment
The Hrodna court reviewed the verdict in the case against pensioner Yuzef Niamera and ruled to toughen his punishment. The Hrodna resident will serve 1.5 years in a penal colony instead of 2.5 years of open prison. Yuzef Niamera participated in a protest march in Hrodna on 6 September 2020 and defended a woman from the brutal actions of riot police. He pushed one of the policemen. “Perhaps, my conscience couldn’t take it. I hit that riot policeman in the buttocks area and shouted: ‘Let go!’” says Yuzef. In the six months that Niamera served in the open prison, he was checked on 57 times; no violations were found. The man’s 91-year-old mother is his dependent.