Belarusian political activist Maria Kolesnikova given 11 years in jail

Belarusian political activist Maria Kolesnikova has been sentenced to 11 years in jail, key figures in the country”s opposition movement have said.

Kolesnikova, 39, was tried in Belarus along with lawyer Maksim Znak who received a 10-year sentence, they added.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya posted their sentences on social media and demanded their “immediate release”.

Tsikhanouskaya’s adviser, Franak Viacorka, added that they are “they are innocent & won’t stay so long in jail.”

“This trial was a farce. The regime became a farce,” Viacorka said on Twitter.

He posted a video of Kolesnikova and Znak in handcuffs and jailed in a courtroom in which Kolesnikova smiled at the cameras.

Kolesnikova became a main figure of the opposition during last year’s disputed August election which resulted in the re-election of long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko.

She previously worked with the campaign of Viktor Babariko, who was stopped from registering after being arrested on charges of bribery.

Kolesnikova faced charges of harming national security when she was detained in September 2020 after resisting authorities’ attempt to force her into exile.

Kolesnikova tore up her passport at the border with Ukraine to avoid being expelled from the country.

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