Trial Of Two Belarusian Opposition Figures Set To Begin In Minsk.

The trial of two leading Belarusian opposition figures, Maryya Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak, is set to begin on August 4 on charges stemming from their calls for protests against the official results of last year’s presidential election.

Lawyers for the two said they were informed by the Minsk regional court on July 28 that the trial will be conducted behind closed doors.

Kalesnikava and Znak have been 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.

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.

The two members of the opposition Coordination Council -- set up after the election with the stated aim of facilitating a peaceful transfer of power -- have rejected the charges as politically motivated. The United States has called the charges "manufactured."

Kalesnikava was arrested on September 7 in the center of Minsk by masked men and taken to the Ukrainian border the next day, along with two associates. Ordered to cross the border, Kalesnikava refused, tearing up her passport instead. She was then taken back to Minsk and jailed.

Znak, who was also arrested in September, was previously charged with public calls for actions aimed at harming the country's security, sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security, and defense.

Mass demonstrations engulfed the country after authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed victory and a sixth consecutive term in the August 9, 2020, election.

The opposition said its candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who ran for president after her husband was jailed while trying to mount a candidacy of his own, won the vote.

Tsikhanouskaya left the country for Lithuania shortly after the election due to security concerns.

Thousands of Belarusians, including dozens of journalists covering the protests, have been detained and hundreds beaten in detention and on the streets.

Several protesters have been killed in the violence, and some rights organizations say there is credible evidence of torture being used by security officials against some detainees.

Lukashenka has denied any wrongdoing regarding the vote and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on stepping down and holding new elections.

The European Union, United States, Canada, and other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have slapped him and senior Belarusian officials with sanctions in response to the “falsification” of the vote and postelection crackdown.

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