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Belarus Fines, Gives Jail Terms To Ethnic Poles

The ZPB was deregistered after it elected Andzelika Borys as its leader in 2005.
The ZPB was deregistered after it elected Andzelika Borys as its leader in 2005.
HRODNA, Belarus -- A court in the western Belarusian city of Hrodna has fined the head of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), sentenced three other officials from the organization to jail terms, and detained dozens of other activists, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

ZPB Chairwoman Andzelika Borys was fined 1 million Belarusian rubles ($360) by the court today. ZPB Deputy Chairman Meczislaw Jaskiewicz, spokesman Igor Bancer, and ZPB Council Chairman Andrzej Poczobut were sentenced to five days in jail after being found guilty of holding an unsanctioned protest in Hrodna on February 10.

The demonstrators had rallied against local officials' decision two days earlier to evict the ZPB from its offices in Ivyanets, a town about 50 kilometers from Minsk.

At least 30 other ZPB activists and supporters have been detained by Belarusian officials since February 14.

Meanwhile, Polish media report that Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski gave his Belarusian counterpart, Syarhey Martynau, a letter for Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka warning that if Minsk continues to violate the rights of its Polish minority, Warsaw will prepare a list of Belarusian government officials whom it will ban from entering Poland and recommend that Brussels block their entry into the EU.

Poland's Foreign Ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski said today the names on the list would be revealed in "a matter of hours and days." The list would reportedly include the chairman of the officially registered Union of Belarusian Poles, Stanislau Syamashka.

The ZPB was deregistered by the Belarusian authorities after it elected Borys as its chairwoman in 2005.

Officials then registered Syamashka's pro-government organization. It was Syamashka who urged the authorities to confiscate the Polish House, as ZPB's offices are known, and give it to his organization.

But the Polish government recognizes Borys's ZPB as the sole legal representative of the Polish minority in Belarus.

The ZPB is a nonpolitical organization set up to promote the Polish language and cultural traditions among ethnic Poles living in Belarus. It has about 20,000 members.

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