Poland steps up criticism of Belarus human rights record

Poland's MPs are to adopt a resolution condemning human rights abuses in Belarus this week, following President Komorowski's trip to the Polish-Belarusian border, promising asylum for opposition activists.

The resolution to be put before the Lower House (Sejm) reads: "We demand that Belarusian authorities release all detainees immediately and stop the political repression."

The move comes after the four-year jail sentence given by a court in Minsk last Thursday to opposition activist Vasily Parfenkov for participating in an "illegal" rally and causing damage to a government building on 19 December.

Parfenkov worked as part of Vladimir Neklyayev's campaign in the presidential elections. Neklyayev was beaten unconscious at the demonstration and is currently under house arrest.

Hundreds of people were detained at the demonstration against elections which the opposition, US, EU, Poland and others regard as rigged, giving an 80 percent vote share to President Alexander Lukashenko.

Five presidential candidates in the elections along with 37 other leading opposition activists have been charged with inciting mass riots.

Deputy head of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Robert Tyszkiewicz (Civic Platform) told TVP public television that he expects the resolution, the first draft of which was put forward by the Law and Justice opposition party, will be carried unanimously, probably on Friday.


Tyszkiewicz was part of the delegation accompanying President Bronislaw Komrowski to the Polish-Belarusian border town of Kuznica Bialostocka on Sunday, where the head of state vowed Poland's support for the Belarusian opposition.

"Our country will most favourably consider requests for political asylum by Belarusians engaged in pro-democratic activities," President Komorowski said.

At a meeting with the border town local government officials, Komorowski said that the growing wave of repression against opposition activists in Belarus is a "barrier in the relations between states" but added that this "should strengthen and not weaken solidarity and the promotion of democracy in Belarus".

President Komorowski also called for the immediate release of Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarusian correspondent for Polish media and leading activist of the Union of Poles in Belarus, who was jailed for 14 days for attending the 19 December demonstration.

Last week, Ian Kelly, the US ambassador to the OSCE said "[Belarus is] a country rapidly retreating from 21st century Europe and its OSCE commitments." (pg)


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