Polish foreign ministry condemns Belarus human rights abuse

Kalesnikava was arrested in September 2020. Tatyana Zenkovich/PAP/EPA

Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has criticised Minsk's record of violating human rights, including its treatment of political prisoners.

"1,500 political prisoners in Belarus are being held in life- and health-threatening conditions, including Maria Kalesnikava, who has been sentenced to years in prison," the ministry wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

"We strongly condemn the actions of the Belarusian authorities that violate basic human rights," the ministry added.

Kalesnikava is a lawyer who supported Viktar Babaryka in the 2020 presidential campaign against the Belarusian strongman, Alexander Lukashenko. When Babaryka was arrested, she joined the electoral team of Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was forced to emigrate after Lukashenko won the ballot, a result the West and the Belarusian opposition say was rigged.

Kalesnikava was arrested in September 2020, on month after the election. A year later she was sentenced to 11 years in prison for "incitement to actions against national security, collusion to take over power and establishing an extremist organisation."

Recent unofficial reports from rights group Wiasna say she has undergone surgery and is still in intensive care. Her condition is said to be severe.