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Verdicts Expected For Belarusian Opposition Figures Kalesnikava, Znak


Maryaa Kalesnikava (front) and Maksim Znak attend a court hearing in Minsk on August 4.

MINSK -- Verdicts and sentences will be handed down on September 6 in the trial of two leading Belarusian opposition figures, Maryya Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak, on conspiracy charges the United States has called "manufactured" amid an ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy activists and groups by authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The Telegram channel of jailed politician Viktar Babaryka quoted Kalesnikava's lawyer, Uladzimer Pylchanka, as saying on August 31 that the high-profile trial will reach its end next week with the court handing down its decision.

The two defendants, who are members of the opposition Coordination Council, were charged with conspiracy to seize power, calls for action to damage national security, and calls for actions damaging national security using media and the Internet.

Both have rejected the charges, which stem from their calls for protests against the official election results in August 2020, as politically motivated.

They face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

The ongoing crackdown started after the presidential election awarded Lukashenka a sixth term, sparking an unprecedented wave of protests amid allegations the vote was rigged.

Mass protests against Lukashenka were met with the heavy-handed, and sometimes violent, detention of tens of thousands of people. Much of the opposition leadership has been jailed or forced into exile.

Several protesters have been killed and thousands arrested during mass demonstrations demanding Lukashenka's resignation. There have also been what human rights groups call credible reports of torture in the crackdown.

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