(upd) It is not the European Parliament’s official view that there are 11 political prisoners in Belarus, an assistant to Filip Kaczmarek, chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Belarus, told news agency BelaPAN on Wednesday.
‘I would like to make a correction to the statement with regards to the political prisoners in Belarus,’ Sylwia Fodor said. ‘The figure (11) which was mentioned in the previous email is commonly used by several NGOs, and does not represent an official position of the European Parliament.’
‘Remains the fact though, that the European Parliament asks for the liberation of all political prisoners in Belarus,’ Ms Fodor said.
The European Parliament views 11 citizens of Belarus as political prisoners, Filip Kaczmarek, chairman of the European Parliament`s Delegation for Relations with Belarus, said in his reply to news agency BelaPAN’s inquiry earlier.
‘The official number of political prisoners is 11,’ Dr Kaczmarek says, without giving their names. He calls for their release and exoneration, noting that ‘without this step the EU-Belarus relations will not ameliorate.’
Following an informal meeting with the ambassador of an EU country on February 17, Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of a human rights organization called Viasna (Spring), told European Radio for Belarus that the European Union viewed the imprisonment of only six citizens of Belarus as politically motivated.
The EU has never officially stated how many Belarusians it considers to be political prisoners, but reports had it that it demanded the release of nine imprisoned opponents of Aliaksandr Lukashenka as prisoners of conscience.
According to Vyasna, there are 11 political prisoners in Belarus. They include Mikalai Statkevich, Ales Bialiatski, Mikalai Autukhovich, Eduard Lobau, Mikalay Dziadok, Ihar Alinevich, Andrey Haydukou, Vasil Parfiankou, Uladzimir Yaromenak, Yauhen Vaskovich, and Artsiom Prakapenka.
‘The lists of political prisoners may differ, for different reasons,’ the Delegation’s spokesperson said. ‘First, the lists may differ between human rights organisations, based abroad or established in Belarus. Second, the number may differ from one period to another. The main point for the EU is anyway that all the political prisoners are released, that no new political prisoner appears, and that the human rights situation improves. Third, the EU takes into account different points of view, listens to experts, monitors trials, and makes its own assessment of the situation and takes its decision autonomously.’
The problem of political prisoners remains the main obstacle to closer ties between the European Union and Belarus, Maira Mora, head of the EU`s Delegation to Belarus, told reporters in Minsk on March, 10.
At the same time, in early March Uladzimir Makey, Belarus’s Foreign Minister, stressed that the EU should stop tying warmer relations with Minsk to the release of a ‘certain number of people who have received specific punishment for specific criminal acts’. Instead, he said, the EU and Belarus should get down to discussing a long-term strategy of relations.
www.belsat.eu/en, via BelaPAN