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Belarus: Opposition member Marija Kolesnikowa on her imprisonment and Lukashenko’s pseudo-dialogue

The Belarusian oppositional Marija Kolesnikowa refused to leave the country despite a death threat – by tearing up her passport. In an interview from prison, the regime critic reveals why she would do it again.

It takes several attempts and long weeks before Marija Kolesnikowa can deliver her answers to SPIEGEL from the prison near Minsk, where she, one of the Belarusian opposition leaders, has been sitting since the beginning of September because she refused to leave her home country. Abducted by the security forces of dictator Alexander Lukashenko, she was to be made to leave her homeland at a Ukrainian border crossing. But Kolesnikova tore up her passport and the officials had to take her back. Her tormentors later denounced her for kidnapping, deprivation of freedom and death threats – a courageous step that few people in Belarus dare to take.

Mariya Kolesnikova’s first lawyer was disbarred in September and her second lawyer, Lyudmila Kazak, was later temporarily arrested. The lawyer is the only one who has been allowed to visit Kolesnikova to date. And not always: at the end of October, the opposition member was put in quarantine for weeks – allegedly she had come into contact with an infected person, an investigator who questioned her. Only after her lawyer had filed a complaint and made the circumstances public was she allowed to return to Kolesnikova. At the meetings, the detainee dictated to her lawyer the answers to SPIEGEL’s questions. You can read the minutes here:

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