Belarus President Pardons 4 Political Prisoners

Posted September 1st, 2011 at 8:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has pardoned four political activists who took part in mass post-election protests last December.

The president's press service said Thursday that Mr. Lukashenko pardoned four people who asked for clemency.

Bulgaria's foreign ministry said Thursday that Mr. Lukashenko has promised to release all political prisoners within a month and a half. It said the promise was made during the visit of Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov to Minsk last week.

There was no immediate comment from Belarus' government on the reported promise.

Mladenov also said the Belarusian leader promised to call for talks with the opposition.

Mr. Lukashenko was declared the winner of the 2010 vote, which was widely criticized by international observers. He has rule Belarus since 1994.

Analysts say Belarus' economic crisis is forcing President Lukashenko to improve strained relations with the European Union, which along with the United States has imposed sanctions against his government.

Hundreds of people, including journalists and opposition activists, were arrested during the post-election protests.

Earlier this year, Belarus secured a $3-billion loan from a regional fund led by traditional ally Russia. But the government is also asking the International Monetary Fund for a rescue loan of up to $8 billion to help it cope with the financial crisis.