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Members of opposition coordination council facing “power grab” charges

2020 2020-08-20T15:14:42+0300 2020-08-20T15:14:43+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Coordination Council leaders during a press-conference on August 18, 2020. Photo:

Coordination Council leaders during a press-conference on August 18, 2020. Photo:

The authorities have opened a criminal investigation into alleged attempts to seize power targeting members of the Coordination Council, a body formed at the initiative of ousted presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

According to Prosecutor general Aliaksandr Kaniuk, the members of the Council may face charges under Art. 361 of the Criminal Code (“calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus”). The official argues that the formation of similar bodies are “not provided by legislation, and their activities are unconstitutional”. He also said that the “creation and activities of the Coordination Council are aimed at seizing power”.

The charge carries penalties ranging from several months to five years in prison.

On August 14, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was forced to leave the country for Lithuania, initiated the creation of a coordination council for the transfer of power in Belarus. She stated that the body was necessary to establish a dialogue with the authorities. It included representatives of civil society, cultural figures, doctors, politicians, lawyers, economists, and teachers. Among them are Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich, Viktar Babaryka’s campaign activist Maryia Kalesnikava, and Pavel Latushka, former director of the Kupala Theater who was fired after publicly supporting the post-election protests.

Volha Kavalkova, a representative of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign headquarters, stated that the Coordination Council did not aim to seize power by unconstitutional means.

“We did everything openly and transparently, everything is published and is in the documents of the Council. We do not see any violation of the law. On the contrary, we see legal actions aimed at restoring the rule of law in the country. If this is a crime, then we have big issues with the rule of law in our country,” Maksim Znak, lawyer and member of the Council, said.

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