Protest against journalist imprisonment in Belarus

Minority activists in Belarus have called on President Komorowski to respond to the sentence of 15 days imprisonment given by a Belarusian court to Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut.

The Union of Poles in Belarus has sent a letter to Poland's head of state, calling on him to make a statement on the arrest and imprisonment.

"We fear the repression of Andrzej Poczobut is the beginning of a new wave of repression directed against the entire organisation," Union of Poles' Igor Bancer told the TOK FM radio station.

The President's Office says a statement will be given today.

"At this time we are considering our response. We will give more information, probably on Monday," spokeswoman at President Komorowski's office, Joanna Trzaska-Wieczorek said Sunday evening.

Poczobut, who works for Poland's leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza, was sentenced late Friday to 15 days in prison for his part in "an unsanctioned protest rally" on the night of 19 December following what the opposition regards as rigged presidential elections - officially won, for a fourth term in office, by Alexander Lukashenko, with just under 80 percent of the vote.

The Polish journalist, who is also a leading activist in the Union of Poles in Belarus - an organisation not recognised by President Lukashenka - had already been fined 1.75 million Belarusian rubles (500 euros) in January on the same charges but the prosecution appealed what they thought was too lenient a punishment.

The court in Minsk ruled he took an "active part" in December's demonstration - which was crushed by police with the arrest of hundreds of protesters - which Poczobut claims he was only attending as a journalist for Gazeta Wyborcza.


On 8 January, Poczobut was detained by Belarusian special services (KGB) in Grodno, near the border with Poland, and was beaten in the chest and head, he claims. He was then forced to sign a document which warned that if he was involved in a similar protest in the future he could face up to eight years in prison.

Later that same week, Poczobut, who is married with a daughter, was detained once more, arrested and charged.

Poland has slapped a ban on President Lukashenko and members of his administration travelling to Poland as part of its protest against the crackdown following the December elections.

Earlier this month, Poland's foreign minister Radek Sikorski warned President Lukashenko: "Mr President you are losing. Sooner or later you will be forced to flee before your fellow citizens and seek shelter in another country."


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