RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Autor)
MINSK -- Belarusian opposition figure Maryya Kalesnikava has been charged eight months after her arrest last year for urging people to protest against a disputed presidential election that left Alyaksandr Lukashenka in power.
Kalesnikava's associates told RFE/RL on May 13 that, according to official documents, Kalesnikava was charged with conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means, public calls for action against national security, and creating and leading an extremist group.
If found guilty, Kalesnikava faces up to 12 years in prison.
Kalesnikava is a key member of the Coordination Council, a body set up by the political opposition to facilitate the transfer of power in Belarus following a presidential election in August that the opposition says was rigged and the West has refused to accept.
Kalesnikava, who was arrested in September, has rejected all charges against her as politically motivated.
Her arrest came amid mass demonstrations that swept across Belarus for several months after the disputed vote that gave Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.
Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown in which almost 30,000 people have been detained, many sentenced to lengthy prison terms, hundreds beaten, several killed, and journalists targeted.
Lukashenka, who has run Belarus since 1994, and other top officials have been slapped with sanctions by the West, which refuses to recognize him as the legitimate leader of the former Soviet republic.
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