Belarus opposition figure urges probe into 'abduction'


Minsk (AFP)

Belarusian opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova on Thursday called for security officers to face criminal charges for abduction and death threats after she disappeared and was imprisoned.

The 38-year-old activist helped spearhead a protest movement after strongman Alexander Lukashenko claimed to have defeated political novice Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and won re-election with 80 percent of the vote last month.

In extracts from a statement she gave to lawyers from a Minsk jail, Kolesnikova said officers from the KGB security service and organised crime police abducted her and pressured her to leave with threats of violence.

"They said that if I didn't leave Belarus voluntarily, they'd take me out anyway, alive or in pieces," she said.

"They also threatened to jail me for up to 25 years."

Her statement gave names and ranks of the officers responsible, her lawyer said.

Relatives only learnt of Kolesnikova's imprisonment Wednesday following her Monday disappearance.

Her allies said she foiled an attempt to force her across the border into Ukraine by ripping up her passport.

"After the KGB officers realised I wouldn't leave Belarus voluntarily, they put a sack on my head, pushed me into a minibus and drove me to the Belarus-Ukraine border," Kolesnikova's statement said.

"After I ripped up my passport, making it impossible for me to enter Ukraine, they put me back in the minibus," she added, after which she was held by border guards and jailed.

Her lawyer submitted a formal request to the head of the Investigative Committee to open a criminal case over abduction, unlawful imprisonment and threats of murder.

Kolesnikova is the most prominent opposition figure still in Belarus as the authorities have pressured many into leaving, including Tikhanovskaya, who was given shelter by EU member Lithuania.

Belarus has claimed that Kolesnikova was detained while attempting to flee into Ukraine by car with two other opposition figures, who themselves did cross the border.

She has been jailed along with another opposition activist, lawyer Maxim Znak, on suspicion of calling for "action aimed at harming national security."

Lukashenko on Thursday vowed that he would never stand down despite weeks of mass protests against his rule.

"People often reproach me, saying 'he won't give up power'. They're right to reproach me. The people didn't elect me for that," he said.