Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova sentenced to 11 years in prison

Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova has been sentenced to eleven years in prison. She was one of the captains of the electoral fraud protest last year that led President Lukashenko to be re-elected by an overwhelming majority.

Last September, the Belarusian authorities wanted to expel her from the country, but she refused to do so. At the Ukrainian border, Kolesnikova tore her passport. Shes been stuck in Belarus ever since. Kolesnikova is one of tens of thousands of protesters who were arrested during the protests.

According to the Minsk court, she has been guilty, among other things, of undermining state security and setting up an extremist group.

Kolesnikova is a member of a coordination council, which opposes Lukashenko. Another member of the council, Maxim Znak, was sentenced to a ten-year prison sentence on the same grounds today. This coordination council was set up last August to peacefully take over the power of Lukashenko.

Activists fear Lukashenko

Many activists have fled the country by now, but they are also not safe abroad. For example, journalist and activist Roman Protasevich was arrested after he was taken off a flight between Greece and Lithuania. The aircraft had to diverge from the Belarusian authorities and was forced to land in Minsk, because there would be a bomb on board.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who took the election against President Lukashenko, fled to Lithuania. In May, Prime Minister Rutte received her in The Hague.