Catherine Ashton, EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk spoke in defense of the Hrodna-based correspondent of Polish Gazeta Wyborcza.
“I want to assure Andrzej Poczobut that he can count on our support. Arresting him is yet another action violating the rights of the Polish minority in Belarus,” Donald Tusk told journalists.
The Prime Minister said that Poland was following the case and expressed regret that Warsaw once again had to put pressure on Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s regime in connection with his opponents’ arrests. He noted that the premiers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary fully supported Poland’s calls for the release of imprisoned opposition and civil society activists in Belarus.
On June 22, 2012 Tusk discussed Poczobut’s situation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The head of the Polish cabinet counts upon efficiency of this conversation. According to him, Belarus used to yield under the pressure of the whole EU and its sharp criticism in the similar cases before.
Catherine Ashton urged the Belarusian authorities to stop persecution of the opposition activists and independent media in Belarus.
In her statement, the EU foreign policy chief said that the Belarusian journalist had been arrested and convicted before and the fresh accusations against him fit the pattern of the Belarusian authorities’ persecution of opposition activists and independent media. She urged Minsk to stop persecuting its political opponents and allow people to exercise their right to political and journalism activities, Polish Radio said.
Andrzej Poczobut was arrested in his flat in Hrodna on June 21, 2012. The criminal case under article 367-2 of the Criminal Code (recidivous slander of the President) was opened against him by Hrodna Investigation Committee. The journalist is facing up to five years of imprisonment.