Belorussian Opposition Leader Sues Her Tormentors Over Death Threats

Ms Maria Kolesnikova is a key figure in the protests against Mr Alexander Lukashenko. (Photo: AFP)

 

 

One of the female trio opposition leaders in Belorussia, Ms Maria Kolesnikova, responded to the death threats with the lawsuit against dictator's secret police.

First she disappeared, then they tried to force her to leave the country - with a sack over her head, reports the opposition. She wants to fight back.

The jailed Belarusian opposition politician Ms Maria Kolesnikova has filed a criminal complaint on charges of death threats. The 38-year-old announced this in a statement that has now been published. The complaint, which also includes allegations of kidnapping and the threat of 25 years' imprisonment, is directed against the KGB secret service and the Belarusian special police to fight organised crime.

Ms Kolesnikova is a key figure in the protests against Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus as a dictator for 26 years and whom the opposition accuses of fraud when he was re-elected on August 9th.

She disappeared without a trace in Minsk last Monday, was apparently kidnapped from the street and taken to the border with Ukraine. There she is said to have been ordered under threat of physical violence to leave the country for the neighbouring state.

In the statement, she wrote that officials pulled a sack over her head and said: either "alive or dismembered". According to her staff in Minsk, Ms Kolesnikova knows the names of the officers. Accordingly, one can identify the men in question. Her lawyer Ms Lyudmila Kasak said her client was bruised from the violence.

In the end, Ms Kolesnikova was able to prevent her deportation: she tore up her passport at the border crossing.

Two days later she was arrested on charges of attempting to take power and is now in a remand prison in Minsk. Her lawyer described the allegations as an "absurd" attempt to silence those who think differently. "Maria feels good and brave despite the stress she experienced in the past two days," said  Ms Kasak.


The Council of Europe launches an investigation

There is great concern for the politician. Belarus is the only country in Europe that still carries out the death penalty - with a shot in the neck. During rallies for the release of Ms Kolesnikova on Wednesday in Minsk, there were numerous arrests. According to the Interior Ministry, 40 people were arrested.

In an interview with Russian state media, Mr Lukashenko defended the violent crackdown on the largely peaceful demonstrators. He described the photo and video evidence of the injuries disseminated by the victims of violence on social networks as harmless. He later called on the security and judicial apparatus to continue to take rigorous action against his opponents. Because he will continue to rule. "Power is not given to someone so that someone can take it, drop it and give it away," he said, according to the state media, at the inauguration of the new Attorney General Andrej Schwed.

The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly's Human Rights Committee announced an international investigation into serious human rights abuses in Belarus. Possible crimes should be documented, it said. The authorities and representatives of civil society in Belarussia were invited to take part in the investigation. The results would be handed over to the judiciary so that the human rights abuses could be charged.

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