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Sen. Richard Durbin: Freedom to Belarusian political prisoners  ? 12

9:31, — Politics

Sen. Richard Durbin: Freedom to Belarusian political prisoners

The US senator shows solidarity with Belarusians.

Richard Durbin addressed the US Congress on the situation in Belarus, Radio Svaboda reports.

The senator reminded that the presidential elections held in Belarus 3 years ago marked a brutal crackdown on freedom of expression and basic democratic principles.

There was a glimmer of hope that perhaps this would finally be an opportunity for the Belarusian people to freely choose their own president in an honest and open election. No longer would the Belarusian people have to endure under the Last Dictator of Europe, strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Tragically, those hopes were quickly dashed when Lukashenko simply claimed another term as president amid elections described by international monitors as seriously flawed.

On election night, December 19, 2010, hundreds of Belarusian citizens were beaten and arrested, the senator reminded.

Let me add with great irony and sadness--that Russia is presently trying to strongarm our friends in Ukraine to join a Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan trade bloc instead of letting it sign an association agreement with the European Union, the senator said.

Richard Durbin spoke about prosecution of former Belarusian presidential candidates Mikalai Statkevich, Andrei Sannikov, human rights activist Ales Bialiatski and other opposition activists.

But the perseverance we have seen from civil society groups and human rights defenders in Belarus has been deeply inspiring. Despite intimidation and threat, these activists continue to fight for their freedoms. [] I can only hope their efforts come to fruition in 2015 when Belarus is slated to host its next presidential election. Until then, I will continue to stand in the Senate to call on Lukashenko to release the remaining political prisoners and stand with the people of Belarus in their quest for democracy and justice, the senator said.

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