'Terror Against The People': Belarus Detains Another Opposition Leader
In Belarus, another member of the country's opposition has been detained by security agents — the latest in a series of disappearances that have prompted the country's most famous living author, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, to speak out against "terror against the people."
Eyewitnesses saw opposition politician Maxim Znak being detained Wednesday morning by unidentified masked men in the capital Minsk.
His lawyer, Dmitry Laevsky, later said Znak had been arrested because of his membership of the opposition-run Coordination Council, which the government has deemed illegal.
Znak was one of the last members of the council still active in Belarus. The others have either been forced into exile or detained because of their efforts to negotiate an end to the rule of authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, following elections last month.
Lukashenko insists he won the Aug. 9 vote in a landslide, but widespread evidence of vote rigging has led to weeks of mass protests by people demanding Lukashenko's resignation.
Public anger grew after a security crackdown that has seen thousands arrested — with many exiting prisons bearing tales of torture at the hands of police.
Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature and the sole remaining council member still active in the country, argued the group's work would go on despite state pressure.
"There is no one left of my friends and associates in the opposition's Coordination Council. They are all in prison, or they have been thrown out of the country," she wrote in a statement released Wednesday by the Belarusian PEN Center.
"First they seized our country, and now they are seizing the best of us. But hundreds of others will come and fill the places of those who have been taken from our ranks," she added. "It is the whole country which has risen up."
She said she was writing her statement as unknown men were outside her apartment building.
Ambassadors from several European countries and journalists rushed to her apartment in a successful effort to fend off her arrest — at least for now.
Znak's detention was only the latest effort by Lukashesko's security forces to suppress the protests by either exiling or arresting high-profile members of the opposition.
On Monday, Maria Kolesnikova, one of the leaders of the movement, was abducted in similar fashion.
Twenty-four hours later, it emerged that state security agents had tried to expel her from her own country — a plan that went awry when Kolesnikova intentionally destroyed her own passport at the Ukrainian border, according to her colleagues.
On Wednesday, Kolesnikova's lawyer, Lyudmila Kazak, confirmed her client was back in a prison in Minsk, where she was being interrogated as a suspect in a criminal case lodged by the state against the Coordination Council.
The country's powerful Investigative Committee later issued a statement saying both Kolesnikova and Znak were being held because of their "calls urging action aimed at harming national security".
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