image sourceGetty Imagesimage captionMaria Kolesnikova appeared in court after 11 months in jail last month

Two leading opposition figures who challenged Belarus's discredited presidential polls have been jailed for trying to threaten national security and seize power.

Protest organiser Maria Kolesnikova was jailed for 11 years while lawyer Maxim Znak received 10 years.

She and lawyer Maxim Znak joined an opposition Co-ordination Council after Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory.

Prosecutors accused the council of trying to stage a coup.

On Monday, a court in Minsk, the capital, sentenced Kolesnikova to 11 years in jail and Znak to 10 years.

Both Kolesnikova and Znak denied the charges against them and denounced the trial as a sham.

For months, Belarusians protested against the August 2020 vote, denounced by the EU, US and UK as neither free nor fair.

Tens of thousands of protesters were detained and many were brutally beaten, as Mr Lukashenko tried to silence dissent. Independent journalists and activists have been arrested in a crackdown that continues a year later, with some 650 political prisoners in detention, activists say.

Last month, the leader of exiles group Belarusian House in Ukraine (BHU) was found hanged in a park in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, in what Ukrainian police say was murder. The Belarus leader has denied his security services were involved.

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The head of Belarus's opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was forced into exile in Lithuania the day after she claimed victory in the presidential election.

In contrast, her opposition colleague, Maria Kolesnikova, resisted attempts to have her thrown out of Belarus, tearing up her passport, after she was seen being bundled into a vehicle in Minsk. Weeks later, she was charged with incitement to undermine national security.

Kolesnikova has already been behind bars for over 11 months. As she appeared in court for sentencing on Monday, she smiled at state TV cameras, and made heart shapes with her hands.

Earlier, Franak Viacorka, one of Ms Tikhanovskaya's senior advisers, told the BBC that President Lukashenko was taking revenge on popular opposition figures.

Ms Viacorka said Maria Kolesnikova was an "inspiring character" who still had "energy and bravery" after one year in custody.

This month's trial was closed to the public for security reasons and lawyers for the accused were banned from revealing any details of the case against them.

Maxim Znak told the BBC it was because of a lack of evidence. He said there was only one reason why the trial was held in secret, because the charges "don't exist".