The detention and prosecution of Belarusian blogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski are groundless, Peter Stano, Lead Spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said during Tuesday’s press briefing in Brussels.
According to him, the EU top officials took notice of today’s bringing accusations against Tsikhanouski and other defendants in the case. The European Union continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release as well as dropping all charges filed against them, the top official stressed.
“Belarus has now entered into the presidential election campaign. Last year’s parliamentary elections symbolised a missed opportunity to conduct elections in line with international standards. The Belarusian authorities are facing an important choice. It is essential that fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens in Belarus are fully respected and authorities provide fine environment which allows for a meaningful and competitive political contest. Such steps would foster democracy development in Belarus,” the statement reads.
The conduct of the upcoming presidential elections will be key for the further development of EU-Belarus relations, Mr Stano added.
In May, Syarhei Tsikhanouski, the author of Youtube channel Страна Для Жизни ( A Country for Life), revealed his presidential ambitions while serving a 15-day jail term for participating in unauthorised mass events.
However, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register his initiative group. According to them, only a person who intends to campaign for the presidency must sign the documents.As Syarhei Tsikhanouski was in custody at that moment, all the necessary documents were signed and filed by his wife. On the back of the situation, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya managed to get her initiative group registered instead.
On May 29, the police arrested Syarhei Tsikhanouski, head of his wife’s nomination group, and at least 15 persons during a peaceful picket in Hrodna. It should be noted that one of the women (Alena K.) who showed up at the picket attempted to stir up a conflict with Tsikhanouski, which resulted in pushing and jostling. According to the official version, one policeman fell down and had to be taken to hospital. On May 30, the Interior Ministry initiated criminal investigation into an alleged act of violence against two police officers.
The police searched the homes of the most of the detainees; some were transferred to Minsk remand prison #1.
On June 9, the Belarusian Investigative Committee stated that Syarhei Tsikhanouski and seven other persons were charged under Art. 342-1 (planning actions that grossly violate public order) of the Criminal Code of Belarus. The above article may carry a punishment of up to 3 years in prison.