by Michael Ireland
Christian Democratic politicians in Britain are urging firm international action against Belarus, after its decision on Wednesday to push ahead with plans to put on trial more than 30 political activists, including four opposition leaders, arrested in December during protests over the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.
In a media update obtained by ASSIST News, the Christian Peoples Alliance www.cpaparty.org.uk says that sanctions must be used against President Lukashenko, who has been in power in the ex-Soviet republic since 1994, to force him to free the detainees, which include members of the Belarusian Christian Democrats (BCD). The cases go before the courts early in February.
Anglican vicar and CPA National Executive member, Rev Robert Hampson, commented: "Firm measures are needed. We want the European Union to impose a visa ban on Lukashenka, his officials and their family members as well as an embargo on the Belarusian oil trade with the West, which is the main source of Lukashenka's personal enrichment. "
Lukashenko's opponents denounced his landslide election win on December 19, 2010 as fraudulent, and an international monitoring team said the count carried out at many election centers had been "bad or very bad."
More than 700 people were arrested after a protest demonstration against the rigged elections and about 30 of them, including two Belarusian Christian Democratic leaders, Vital Rymasheuski and Paval Seviarynets, are charged with organizing 'mass riots' which carry a sentence of 15 years.
CPA says the protestors had been attacked, beaten and rounded up by large numbers of security forces and internal troops with shocking brutality.
Rev Hampson added: "Belarus is one of the last authoritarian regimes in Europe. We stand alongside our brave political friends in the Belarusian Christian Democrats and share their demands for new, free and democratic presidential and parliamentary elections without the participation of Alexander Lukashenka. Such elections must be run by an fully independent commission and the country's monopolistic state electronic media must be stripped of their role."
The Christian Peoples Alliance is linked to other Christian Democratic parties across Europe. In the 2009 elections, the Christian 'ticket' polled votes from 250,000 people in Britain.
A list of those arrested during the December protests can be found here: http://spring96.org/en/news/40433