Accessibility links

U.S. Lawyer Moved To Different Prison In Belarus

Emmanuel Zeltser

Emmanuel Zeltser

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A U.S. lawyer imprisoned in Belarus has been moved to a correctional facility in Mogilev, in the eastern part of the country, the State Department has said.

Emanuel Zeltser, a U.S. citizen who was born in Russia, was convicted of industrial espionage in August, four months after arriving in Belarus to represent Josef Kay, a relative of the late Georgian businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili.

He was sentenced to three years in prison, and the United States has been calling for his release on health grounds. His detention is one of several irritants in Washington's relations with the ex-Soviet state of Belarus.

"We continue to call upon the Belarussian authorities to release Mr. Zeltser on humanitarian grounds, and we'll be making another request," a State Department official told Reuters.

Zeltser, 54, was arrested in March at the height of a diplomatic dispute between Belarus and Washington, and his detention and closed trial prompted U.S. protests.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been accused by the West of violating basic rights, but relations have improved with the release in August of Belarusian detainees deemed political prisoners.

The State Department officials say the United States wants Belarus to do more to advance human rights and promote civil society before further easing sanctions against the former Soviet republic.

Zeltser's defense lawyer in Belarus, Dmitry Goryachko, referred to the facility in Mogilev as a penal colony, said a spokesman for the Zeltser family in the United States. His lawyer says Zeltser is being denied medicine for diabetes and arthritis

Before his arrest, Zeltser was director of the American Russian Law Institute, which promotes legal reform in Russia. He is an expert on organized crime and money laundering in former Soviet republics.