EU urges Belarusian officials to release demo organizers

Brussels - The European Union on Wednesday called for 'the immediate release' of organizers of a planned pro-EU rally detained by the Belarusian police in Minsk.

'I urge the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all those detained on political grounds and to respect the basic human right of the Belarusian people to express themselves and to assemble, including on the 14th October,' Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU commissioner in charge of external relations, said in a statement.

Ferrero-Waldner welcomed the initiative taken 'by members of Belarus's civil society' to organize a European march 'to express the support of the Belarusian people for closer relations between Belarus and the EU.' But she also expressed concern at the arrests, saying they risked further straining relations between Minsk and Brussels.

'I would expect the Belarusian authorities to act in accordance with their recently reconfirmed position of getting closer to the EU. These actions are in contrast to this position,' she said.

Belarusian police on Tuesday detained two top organizers of the march - Viktor Ivashkevich of the opposition Belarusian National Front party and Valery Ukhnolev of the opposition Communist party - planned for October 14 in the capital Minsk.

Public demonstrations are generally banned in Belarus.