Czech PEN club calls for solidarity with Belarussian opposition


Prague, Dec 28 (CTK) - The Czech centre of the International PEN Club yesterday expressed concern over the detention of hundreds of opponents of re-elected president Alexandr Lukashenko in Belarus, especially of presidential candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyayev, one of present major Belarussian poets.

The declaration was signed by PEN club chairman Jiri Dedecek and honorary chairman Vaclav Havel, former Czech president.

They said the presidential elections in Belarus were rigged.

On December 19, Belarussian police arrested more than 600 opponents of Lukashenko at a massive demonstration in Minsk and imposed mostly two-week prison sentences on them. Seventeen persons who are said to have organised the demonstration, including five presidential candidates, face up to 15 years in prison.

Nyaklyayev was severely beaten and nobody has heard of him since his arrest. It is rumoured that he died of the injuries he suffered in the police attack.

The International PEN Club and the associations of Belarussian and Russian writers called on Lukashenko to immediately release Nyaklyayev.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and his German, Polish and Swedish counterparts called on the EU to terminate its rapprochement policy towards Belarus after Lukashenko's re-election last week.

Lukashenko, who has been the Belarussian head of state for 16 years, was re-elected president again, receiving almost 80 percent of the vote.


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