Be­larus op­po­si­tion fig­ures in court


Two lead­ers of the op­po­si­tion in Be­larus ap­peared in court on Tues­day af­ter a night in jail as the gov­ern­ment pur­sued a crack­down on the few fig­ures still at large, with more mass demon­stra­tions planned against Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lukashenko.

De­spite most ma­jor op­po­si­tion fig­ures be­ing in jail or in ex­ile, Lukashenko has so far failed to put down protests against his 26-year rule more than two weeks af­ter an elec­tion his op­po­nents say was rigged. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple took to the streets over the week­end and dis­persed peace­fully. Lukashenko has denied elec­tion cheat­ing. He has called the pro­test­ers "rats" and says they are funded from abroad.

Olga Kolvakova, the main rep­re­sen­ta­tive still in Be­larus of op­po­si­tion can­di­date Svi­at­lana Tsikhanous­kaya, ap­peared in court, as did Sarhei Dyleuski, who has led strikes at the Minsk Trac­tor Fac­tory, one of the coun­try's big­gest plants. Both were ar­rested on Mon­day. The two are lead­ers of the op­po­si­tion Co­or­di­na­tion Coun­cil, set up last week with the stated aim of open­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the gov­ern­ment. Lukashenko called the coun­cil an il­le­gal at­tempt to seize power and pros­e­cu­tors have started a crim­i­nal case against it.

The coun­cil in­cludes dozens of fig­ures rep­re­sent­ing broad swathes of so­ci­ety, among them au­thor Svet­lana Alex­ievich, win­ner of the No­bel Prize for Lit­er­a­ture, who has been sum­moned for ques­tion­ing on Wed­nes­day. Be­laru­sian me­dia re­leased pho­tos of Dyleuski seated in court in a metal cage. Pho­tos of Kolvakova in court were not avail­able.

Lukashenko has threat­ened to fire any teach­ers who do not sup­port the gov­ern­ment. "The in­tim­i­da­tion will not work.

We will not re­lent," Tsikhanous­kaya said in a video link with the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

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