Polish leader offers asylum to Belarus opposition

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski went to his country's border with Belarus on Sunday and offered Poland's support to opponents of its authoritarian government, news channel TVN24 reported.

"There is a growing wave of reprisals against the Belarussian opposition ... Poland will continue to support Belarussian citizens' drive to build civil society," Komorowski said in the border town of Kuznica Bialostocka.

"Our country's authorities will most favourably consider requests for political asylum by Belarussians engaged in pro-democratic activities," he added.

Poland has long opposed the authoritarian rule of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, while supporting his democratic opponents.

Since 2007, Warsaw-based Belsat TV has been broadcasting uncensored news to the neighbouring former Soviet republic.

"We support sanctions that will be painfully felt by the Belarussian authorities such as the travel ban to the European Union, but we do not wish to penalise Belarussian society," Komorowski told Polish local officials.

He also criticised Minsk for jailing Andrzej Poczoput, an activist from Belarus' Polish minority, and for failing to open its frontier to visa-free local traffic within a 30-km (19-mile) border zone.

On Friday, the OSCE, Europe's main human rights and security watchdog, condemned legal action taken against opposition protesters in Belarus, including a four-year prison sentence for opposition activist Vasily Parfenkov.

He was the first of some 40 people due to stand trial for their part in a rally against Lukashenko's re-election last December.

(Reporting and writing by Rob Strybel; Editing by Mark Heinrich)


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