Trial of Maria Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak begins

The criminal case against Maria Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak went to trial in Minsk. Maria and Maksim are representatives of the ex-presidential contender Viktar Babaryka’s team and members of the Presidium of the opposition Coordination Council. The trial is being held behind closed doors despite demands for open trial from more than 3,800 people, including politicians and civic activists from different countries.

Both defendants face up to 12 years in prison. They are charged with calling for actions aimed at harming national security, conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means, and creation of and participation in an extremist group. The prisoners’ lawyers stated that Maksim Znak was being prosecuted for expressing his professional opinion on legal issues and exercising his fundamental rights, and Maria Kalesnikava’s actions were aimed not at inflicting but at preventing harm to national security.

Human rights organizations recognized Kalesnikava and Znak as political prisoners. At the trial, both political prisoners radiated calmness and confidence, and Maria danced in the cage, smiled, and showed her trademark heart gesture, which millions of Belarusians have fallen in love with.

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