member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, lawyer, sentenced to 10 years in prison
Date of birth: 4 September 1981
Date of detention: 9 September 2020
Art. 361 of the Criminal Code — Calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus
Art. 357 of the Criminal Code — Conspiracy to seize power in an unconstitutional way
Art. 361-1 of the Criminal Code — Creation of an extremist formation, or participation in it
Sentence: 10 years
Penalty: imprisonment in a medium-security penal colony
Judge: Siarhei Yepikhau
Prosecutor: Aliaksandr Karol
Prison: Penal colony No. 3
Godparent: Sergey Lagodinsky, member of the European Parliament
Maksim Znak is a lawyer and a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council.
In 2004, he graduated with honors from the law faculty of the Belarusian State University (BSU). After his postgraduate studies at the BSU, he defended a scientific thesis on the Dispositiveness of Contractual Liability in Civil Law and was awarded the scientific degree of 'candidate of legal sciences'. Besides, Maksim Znak holds an Executive MBA from Kozminski University (Warsaw, Poland).
Maksim Znak has practiced legal consulting since 2001. In 2007, he founded the YurZnak law firm, which later merged with Borovtsov & Salei. He is an arbitrator of the International Chamber of Arbitrators of the Union of Lawyers of Belarus. Besides, he devoted much time to science and teaching as a senior lecturer at the Civil Law Department of the BSU, lecturing on Civil Law, International Private Law, and Legal Environment for Business.
Maksim Znak has been an expert for the World Bank's Doing Business study since 2011. He acted as a national consultant on bringing the Belarusian legislation into line with the basic World Trade Organization's treaties. He published over 150 articles and was a columnist and author for the Belgazeta and Ekonomicheskaya Gazeta newspapers.
The Chambers Guide 2017 noted that clients appreciated Maksim Znak's ability to explain the situation in an accessible manner and offer options for finding the best solution, his strategic mind, incredible promptness and persistence, creative approach to litigation work, and attention to detail. Other authoritative international publications and ratings, including Legal 500, IFLR1000, and Who's Who Legal, also recognized Maksim Znak as one of the leaders in the Belarusian legal market.
He is keen on sports, runs long distances, and is fond of triathlon. Besides, the lawyer plays the guitar and performs his original songs. He took part in several bard festivals in Belarus.
In May 2020, Maksim Znak met Viktar Babaryka and started working on legal issues as part of Babryka's election team.
Maksim Znak was arrested on September 9, 2020. His apartment was searched and he was taken to the Investigative Committee for questioning.
The Investigative Committee said that Maksim Znak was suspected of a criminal offense under Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code (appeals to actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus).
On September 18, he faced formal charges under Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code ('Calls to actions aiming to harm the national security of Belarus'). The lawyer went on a hunger strike to protest the charges.
On December 21, it became known that the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on 'conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means' (Part 1 of Article 357 of the Criminal Code) against the members of the Coordinating Council. Besides, Znak became a defendant in a criminal case on the 'creation of an extremist group' (Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code), initiated against the Coordinating Council.
On February 11, 2021, it became known that Maksim Znak and Maryia Kalesnikava faced additional charges of 'conspiracy to seize power with unconstitutional means' (Part 1 of Article 357) and 'creating and leading an extremist formation' (Part 1 of Article 361-1).
On September 6, 2021, in the Minsk District Court, Judge Siarhei Yepikhau found Maksim Znak and Maryia Kalesnikava guilty under three articles of the Criminal Code: Part 3 of Article 361 ('Calls for actions aiming to harm the national security of Belarus'), Part 1 of Article 357 ('Conspiracy to seize state power by unconstitutional means'), and Part 1 of Article 361-1 ('Creating and leading an extremist group'). He sentenced Maksim Znak to 10 years of imprisonment in a medium-security penal colony and Maryia Kalesnikava to 10 years in a general-security penal colony.
On December 24, 2021, the Supreme Court upheld the sentences of Maryia Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak.
In early January 2022, Znak was transferred to penal colony #3 near Viciebsk.
In May 2022, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) recognized the detention of Maksim Znak as unlawful.
On May 24, 2022, the KGB added Maksim Znak to the 'List of persons involved in terrorist activities'.
It is known that the penal colony administration placed Maksim Znak in a punishment cell three times, and then, in late November 2022, they placed him in a tighter security cell.
According to the information received in April 2023, the political prisoner has hardly ever left the punishment cell since February 2023.
Maksim Znak, lawyer and member of the presidium of the Coordination Council, has been officially charged under Part 3 of Art. 361 (calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus) of the Criminal Code. In an act of protest, the arrested lawyer went on a hunger strike, according to his counsel Dzmitry Layeuski.