Release jailed Belarus politicians, Cannon says

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon on Friday called for the release of opposition politicians in Belarus who are under detention following the country's disputed election.

The comments from Cannon came that same day that Belarus's Central Election Commission declared that President Alexander Lukashenko won last Sunday's election with almost 80 per cent of the vote.

The vote has been blasted by Lukashenko's challengers and by international observers.

The nearest competitor, Andrei Sannikov, garnered only 2.4 per cent of the vote. He, and six other presidential candidates, are currently in jail after riot police broke up a crowd of 10,000 people protesting the vote on Sunday.

One of those presidential candidates, Vladimir Neklyayev, was beaten during the rally,

His wife, Olga Neklyayev, said that she and his attorney have not been allowed to see him in jail.

"This is the lawlessness of authorities that are afraid to show the horrible condition my husband is in," she said.

Cannon said he was "profoundly concerned about the security and well-being of the detained opposition leaders, in particular that of Vladimir Neklyayev, whose condition is unknown."

"We are witnessing a step backwards in Belarus, and I strongly urge the authorities to change direction and to uphold democratic principles, respect for human rights and the rule of law," Cannon said. "Canada remains deeply concerned that an oppressive regime continues to hold power in Belarus. The people of Belarus deserve to have their voices heard without fear of violent retribution."

Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. Independent media outlets are not allowed under his regime, and 80 per cent of the country's industry is kept under Soviet-style control.


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