Belarus: Secrecy of prisoner of conscience Maria Kolesnikova's whereabout is 'unacceptable'

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Political prisoner Maria Kolesnikova has been hospitalised in an intensive care unit

Recently Kolesnikova was placed in a punishment cell - a harsh form of confinement

‘The secrecy that surrounds prisoners in Belarus is unacceptable’ - Marie Struthers

Responding to reports that imprisoned opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova is in intensive care from her ‘punishment cell’ to undergo surgery, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said: 

“The Belarusian authorities must immediately disclose all information regarding Maria Kolesnikova’s condition, whether her life is in danger, and her whereabouts.

“The secrecy that surrounds prisoners in Belarus is unacceptable.

“This situation once again demonstrates what a cruel and impenetrable system President Alexander Lukashenko has built in his efforts to punish those who dare to dissent or challenge his rule.

“Lukashenko’s government will not achieve its aim to silence a powerful voice of peaceful protest by throwing Kolesnikova into a punishment cell in inhumane conditions, by denying her contact with her lawyer, and denying the rest of us any information about her well-being.” 

Hospitalisation of Maria Kolesnikova

The news of her hospitalisation came from the team of imprisoned Belarusian politician Viktar Babaryka - an associate of Maria Kolesnikova – yesterday. On the same day Kolesnikova’s lawyer was denied a visit for the third time in a row.

According to Babaryka’s team, earlier in November, Kolesnikova was placed in a punishment cell, a harsher type of confinement, usually solitary. The team received no information about the reasons for and duration of this measure. 

According to further information, later confirmed by the lawyer, Kolesnikova was transported to the Homel city hospital on Monday, underwent urgent surgery and was then transferred to intensive care.  

Sentencing

On 6 September 2021, the Minsk Regional Court sentenced Maria Kolesnikova and her associate Maksim Znak, members of the opposition Coordinating Council and associates of the jailed presidential contender Viktar Babaryka, to 11 and 10 years respectively, on trumped-up charges including “conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means”. 

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