Belarus Extends Pretrial Detention Of Opposition Figure Kalesnikava

MINSK -- Belarusian authorities have prolonged the pretrial detention of Maryya Kalesnikava, an opposition figure who is facing national-security charges, for two months.

The press service of jailed Belarusian politician Viktar Babaryka said on November 6 that investigators had extended Kalesnikava's detention until January 8.

Kalesnikava's lawyer Lyudmila Kazak said earlier in the day that her client's bail request had been rejected.

Kalesnikava is a key member of the Coordination Council, a body set up by Belarus's political opposition to facilitate a transfer of power in the country following a presidential election in August that the opposition says was rigged and the West has refused to accept.

Babaryka is a former bank manager whose bid to run for president was derailed when he and his son were arrested on embezzlement charges that supporters say were trumped up.

Mass demonstrations have swept across Belarus since the August 9 disputed vote that gave Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.

Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown that has included thousands of arrests, beatings, and other mistreatment of peaceful protesters, as well as expulsions of foreign journalists.

Kalesnikava herself was snatched from the streets of Minsk in September by masked men along with two staffers. The three were driven early on September 8 to the border, where authorities told them to cross into Ukraine.

Security officers failed to deport Kalesnikava because she ripped her passport into small pieces after they arrived in a no-man’s land between Belarus and Ukraine. Her two associates continued on and have been in Ukraine since then.

Kalesnikava was brought back to Minsk and charged with calling for actions aimed at damaging the country's national security via media and the Internet.

She could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if convicted.

A dozen human rights watchdogs based in Belarus have recognized Kalesnikava and two detained associates as political prisoners and called for their immediate release from custody.