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Extension Of Belarus Opposition Figure's Pretrial Detention Upheld


Maryya Kalesnikava

A court in Minsk has upheld an extension of the pretrial detention of Belarusian opposition figure Maryya Kalesnikava, who faces national-security charges after she urged people to protest against a disputed presidential election that left Alyaksandr Lukashenka in power.

"The Minsk City Court rejected Maryya Kalesnikava's appeal. [Kalesnikava's pretrial] term in the detention center was extended until May 8. Support Masha with letters, express solidarity," a would-be Belarusian presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka, who himself is on trial on corruption charges that he denies, said in a statement on Telegram on March 22.

The appeal came after Kalesnikava's pretrial detention was extended in early March.

Kalesnikava is a key member of the Coordination Council, a body set up by the political opposition in Belarus to try to facilitate the transfer of power in the country following a presidential election in August 2020 that the opposition says was rigged and the West has refused to accept.

Kalesnikava was arrested in September 2020 and charged with calling for actions aimed at damaging the country's national security via media and the Internet -- namely calling on people to protest against the election results.

In February, Kalesnikava was additionally charged with conspiracy to seize power and creating and leading an extremist group.

Kalesnikava, who rejects the charges as politically motivated, could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.

Babaryka, a former Belarusian banker whose bid to challenge incumbent Lukashenka in the election was halted by his arrest on corruption charges, reiterated his not guilty plea as his trial resumed on March 22 following an almost one-month break.

After he announced his intention to run for president, Babaryka, a former senior manager at the Russian-owned Belgazprombank, was arrested in June 2020 along with his son Eduard on charges of money laundering, bribery, and tax evasion.

Mass demonstrations have swept across Belarus since the disputed August 9 vote that gave Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.

Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown in which almost 30,000 have been detained, hundreds beaten, several killed, and journalists targeted.

Lukashenka, who has run Belarus since 1994, and top officials have been slapped with sanctions by the West, which refuses to recognize him as the legitimate leader of the former Soviet republic.

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