European Parliament to hold special meeting on situation in Belarus

BRUSSELS (BNO NEWS) - European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek on Friday decided to hold a special joint meeting in January on the situation in Belarus, a spokesman said.

The decision to hold an extraordinary meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels came after Buzek held a meeting with chairpersons of relevant European Parliament committees and delegations. The meeting will take place on January 12 at 5 p.m. local time.

"It is important that we maintain pressure on the Lukashenko government at the highest levels following the violence in Belarus," said Buzek. "The European Parliament will examine the conduct and aftermath of the Presidential elections including the excessive and disproportionate forces by the Belarusian authorities, the beating and detention of opposition presidential candidates and violence against journalists and civil society activists."

Buzek, who repeated his call for the immediate release of political prisoners and an immediate end to violence, said the European Parliament will discuss a possible further European Union response to the situation.

After Sunday's presidential elections in Belarus, which were won by current President Alexander Lukashenko with 79.7 percent of the votes, more than 600 people were arrested as part of a violent crackdown on protests. Among those arrested were also journalists, activists and presidential candidates.

On Monday, international election monitors of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said Belarus still has a 'considerable way' to go to meet its obligations, and condemned the detention of most presidential candidates along with hundreds of activists, journalists, and civil society representatives.

The observers reported that voting on election day itself was overall assessed positively, but said the process deteriorated significantly during the vote count during which observers assessed almost half of the vote counts monitored as 'bad' or 'very bad'.

On Thursday, authorities in Belarus released 100 of the jailed activists. Some 500 others are still serving jail terms of up to 15 days, but some of them may face up to 15 years in jail if they are convicted of organizing mass 'riots'. The Presidential candidates also remain in prison.


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