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Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova charged with threatening national security

The Belarusian Investigative Committee has announced that opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova (Maryia Kalesnikava) has been charged with calling for actions that threaten the national security of Belarus. 

Charged under section 3, article 361 of the Belarusian Criminal Code, she could now face between two and five years in prison. State investigators didn’t specify which actions listed under article 361 Kolesnikova stands accused of calling for.

Kolesnikova, who is currently in custody in the Belarusian city of Zhodino, was declared a suspect in a criminal investigation into “a case of public calls for actions aimed at causing harm to national security,” on September 9.

The Investigative Committee’s press release didn’t mention an alleged attempt to “seize power,” despite the fact the state news agency BelTA had reported the launch of a criminal case over “public calls to seize power” back in August. The Belarusian security forces reportedly launched the case over the formation of the opposition’s Coordination Council, where Kolesnikova is a member of the Presidium.

Kolesnikova was abducted by unidentified men in the center of the Belarusian capital on the morning of September 7. A day later, Belarusian state media reported that she had been arrested at the border with Ukraine. According to her colleagues, Belarusian officials allegedly hoped to force her out of the country, but she ripped up her passport before reaching the border checkpoint, preventing herself from leaving Belarus. On September 8, reports emerged that Kolesnikova was being held in a pre-trial detention center in Minsk.

On September 10, Kolesnikova sent a statement to the Belarusian Investigative Committee via her lawyer, demanding the launch of a criminal case against officers from the Belarusian KGB (the national intelligence service) and the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption. Kolesnikova’s statement details her abduction, as well as the psychological pressure and death threats she faced while in official custody, and an attempt to force her out of Belarus “alive or in parts.” On September 12, Kolesnikova’s lawyer reported that she had been transferred to a detention center in Zhodino.

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