US Demands Belarus Free Jailed Human Rights Activist

Posted August 8th, 2011 at 8:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States is demanding Belarus immediately free prominent human rights activist Ales Belyatsky, arrested last week for alleged tax evasion.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner says Belyatsky's arrest is another unfortunate sign of Belarus' self-isolation and violation of global standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Belyatsky's supporters say the charges against him are phony.

Belyatsky heads up Vysana, which the State Department says is one of just two human rights organizations in Belarus. The group provided legal aid to those arrested in last December's anti-government protests following President Alexander's Lukashenko's reelection. The opposition says the election was rigged.

Also Monday, the editor of the opposition website, Charter 97, Natalia Radzina, announced that the United Nations has granted her refugee status and she is requesting asylum in Lithuania.

Radzina was imprisoned in Belarus during the chaos that followed the disputed December election. She managed to flee to Moscow after her release and made her way to Lithuania. She says she hopes to be able to return to what she calls a “democratic Belarus” soon.

The United States has called Mr. Lukashenko Europe's last dictator for suppressing human rights, stifling free speech, and fixing elections. Mr. Lukashenko and other top Belarusian officials are under U.S. and European Union sanctions.