Josef Shagal, Israel’s Ambassador to Belarus, believes that Belarusian political prisoners want to be heroes in prison.
“Officially, at the moment there are four persons who are considered to be political prisoners. Four persons are in prison. Lukashenka suggests they should ask for pardon, as Khodorkovsky did. File a petition and you will be released. But they don’t want. They prefer to remain heroes in prison,” Joseph Shagal said in his interview to Israeli channel RTVI.
Being asked about the position of Israel as the only democratic country in the Middle East on the issue of political prisoners in Belarus, Shagal answered:
“How will we treat a Palestinian who throws a stone to the Knesset? Is he a political prisoner or a criminal? They are serving their terms as convicted under a criminal article, not a political one. All of them. For attacking the parliament and throwing stones.”
“I don’t say they are not political prisoners. It depends on the light we view them. In accordance with their country’s criminal code, they are criminals. From the point of view of Poland or the EU, they are political prisoners,” Mr Shagal added.
“From our point of view, they are criminals, because they were convicted for hooliganism, for throwing stones, for degrading the authorities and so on,” he said.
The Israeli ambassador also blasted the EU’s sanctions imposed on Belarus.
“It is Poland that initiated the pressure on Belarus. But it has $ 5bn sales turnover with Belarus! On the one hand, they say ‘they violate human rights, he is a dictator’, but on the other hand, they have $5 bn turnover”.