Maryya Kalesnikava gestures inside the defendants' cage as she attended a court hearing in Minsk on September 6, 2021.
Maryya Kalesnikava, a leading opposition activist in Belarus who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in September 2021, has been transferred to a hospital and is currently being treated for unspecified illness in an intensive care unit.
Viktar Babaryka, a would-be Belarusian presidential candidate in 2020, wrote on Telegram on November 29 that Kalesnikava was rushed to a hospital in the city of Homel, 300 kilometers southeast of the capital, Minsk, a day earlier.
Kalesnikava’s lawyer, Uladzimer Pylchanka, told RFE/RL that the hospital confirmed to him that his client is being treated in the facility, adding that he was not allowed to see Kalesnikava due to "the absence of the convict's request."
Pylchanka is waiting for the official response to his letter to the Prosecutor-General's Office demanding to see his client.
It remains unclear why Kalesnikava was transferred to a hospital and what she is being treated for. Before being rushed to the hospital, Kalesnikava was in punitive solitary confinement on unspecified charges.
Kalesnikava and another opposition figure, Maksim Znak, were sentenced to prison terms of 11 and 10 years, respectively, on September 6, 2021, after being found guilty on charges of conspiracy to seize power, calls for action to damage national security, and calls for actions damaging national security by trying to create an extremist group. Both had pleaded not guilty and rejected the charges.
Kalesnikava, 40, was a coordinator of Babaryka’s campaign before he was excluded from running. Babaryka, the former head of Belgazprombank, was arrested weeks before the presidential election. Kalesnikava then joined forces with another presidential candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, whom the majority of Belarusians have called the winner in the election.
After joining Tsikhanouskaya’s support group, Kalesnikava became a member of the opposition Coordination Council and turned into a prominent leader of protests demanding the resignation of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who was officially announced the winner of the election.
Kalesnikava was snatched from the streets of Minsk on September 7, 2020, by masked men, along with two staffers. The three were driven early the next day to the border, where authorities told them to cross into Ukraine.
Security officers reportedly failed to deport Kalesnikava because she ripped her passport into pieces after they arrived in the no-man’s-land between Belarus and Ukraine. Her two associates entered Ukraine, but with no valid passport, Kalesnikava remained in the country and was subsequently arrested.
Human rights watchdogs in Belarus have recognized Kalesnikava and two other associates also being detained as political prisoners and have demanded their immediate release.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called her prosecution a "politically motivated conviction" on "bogus" charges.
Kalesnikava last year won the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize awarded annually by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to honor "outstanding" civil society action in the defense of human rights.