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Ryhor Kastusyou
MINSK -- Former Belarusian presidential candidate Ryhor Kastusyou says the authorities are doing everything to "turn my family into beggars," RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Kastusyou told RFE/RL today that his daughter, Katsiaryna Kastusyova, lost her job this week. The school where she worked as a music teacher refused to prolong her work contract. Kastusyou said it was a politically motivated decision as his daughter was a member of his campaign team for the presidential election in December.

"My daughter graduated from high school with distinction. She successfully graduated from a music school and music academy and has worked in children's art schools for two years now," Kastusyou said.

He said his daughter's contract was not prolonged only because she is an active member of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front party.

A representative of the school where Kastusyova taught told RFE/RL the decision not to renew her contract was made based on her professional abilities and had nothing to do with politics.

Kastusyou said that he himself lost his job as director of the Maintenance Directorate in the eastern town of Shklou in 2001 because of his political activities.

"My eldest daughter lost her teaching job after the parliamentary elections in 2008 after working [at her job] successfully for three years," he said. "My son started having problems with his studies at a university in Minsk and had to leave for Gdansk, Poland, where he now is studying at Gdansk University without any problems. I am certain that my family members are paying the price for my political views."

Kastusyou is not allowed to leave Belarus as he is suspected of organizing mass disturbances in Minsk on December 19.

He was arrested on December 20, one day after some 15,000 people took part in antigovernment demonstrations to protest the announcement of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's reelection. He was later released from jail but ordered not to leave Minsk until the investigation was completed.

Kastusyou said he is not able to earn any money to provide for his family, as his company is registered in St. Petersburg and he is not able to travel there.

"My whole family is under pressure. We are doing everything to make ends meet, and I assure you that is not a pleasant situation," he said.

Read more in Belarusian here
Uladzislau Tokarau
MINSK -- The local head of an embattled Polish cultural organization in eastern Belarus has fled to Poland after fearing possible arrest, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Uladzislau Tokarau, head of the Vitsebsk branch of the Union of Poles In Belarus (ZPB), told RFE/RL today he has been in Poland for several days.

He said police stopped him on May 28 when he returned to Vitsebsk from Minsk and took him to a police station, where they told him he was suspected of fraud.

He was held for several hours while police searched his apartment.

"The police told me that I had taken somebody's passport and money and promised to perform some services for that person, but that I destroyed the passport and never returned the money," Tokarau said.

He called the accusation ridiculous.

Tokarau said police warned him they would bring in "the victim" and interrogate the two of them together, but then did not do so.

He was then allowed to go home, where he found that the police who searched his apartment had confiscated a computer and two laptops, as well as all written records of the ZPB's activities.

"I am sure that this is all about the ZPB's activities relating to the December presidential election," Tokarau told RFE/RL.

The ZPB recently convened a public gathering in Vitsebsk to demand the release of political prisoners.

Tokarau said he finally decided to leave Belarus. He said he has not yet requested political asylum in Poland. His wife and 10-year-old daughter are in Vitsebsk.

Andrzej Poczobut
Another Polish-Belarusian activist and journalist, Andrzej Poczobut from the western city of Hrodna, has been held in a pretrial detention center since April 6.

He has been charged with "insulting the personal dignity and honor of the president" in his newspaper articles and online comments.

Poczobut, who is a leading member of ZPB, could face up to two years in jail if found guilty.

The Belarusian government's treatment of the ZPB strained ties between Belarus and the European Union last year, particularly after the ZPB was evicted from its office near Minsk and police detained a number of its activists.

The ZPB has been trying for five years to regain official registration in Belarus.

In 2009, Belarusian officials registered the Union of Belarusian Poles, an alternative organization representing ethnic Poles in Belarus that is friendly with Belarusian authorities.

The Polish government regards the ZPB as the only legal representative of the Polish minority in Belarus.

About 4 percent of Belarus's 9.7 million population are ethnic Poles.

Read more in Belarusian here

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About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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