Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reiterated its call for Belarusian authorities to release Ihar Losik, a popular blogger and RFE/RL consultant, as he marked his 300th day in detention on charges widely considered to have been trumped-up.
Losik has been "cruelly separated from his wife, his daughter, and his colleagues for far too long" and "must be freed from detention and allowed to rejoin his family," RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said in a statement on April 21.
He also urged the government to cease its "repressive campaign against independent journalists, including RFE/RL reporters and staff," and allow them to "continue their work to provide objective information to the people of Belarus."
Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled the country since 1994, has orchestrated a brutal crackdown since protesters flooded streets across the country following a presidential election they say was rigged in his favor.
Almost 30,000 people have been detained since the August 2020 vote, hundreds beaten, several killed, and the media targeted by security forces.
Losik, 28, is among more than 300 political prisoners caught up in the crackdown, according to human rights groups.
Losik has been in pretrial detention since June 2020. He was initially charged with allegedly using his popular Telegram channel to "prepare to disrupt public order" ahead of the August election.
Earlier this month, he tried to slit his wrists and launched a four-day hunger strike after being informed of new, unspecified charges. He had previously launched a six-week hunger strike to protest the original charges.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.
On March 22, 11 days after he was informed of the new charges, a court extended Losik's pretrial detention to May 25. He has yet to face a court hearing on any of the alleged offenses police say he committed.
The Belarusian opposition says its candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, won the vote. The West has refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of the former Soviet republic.
The European Union, the United States, and other countries have slapped sanctions on top Belarusian officials in response to the crackdown on protesters and the opposition.
In a letter addressed to Losik on March 26, a bipartisan group of seven U.S. lawmakers condemned his "unjust and illegitimate detainment," saying they stood "shoulder to shoulder" with him, his family, and all other Belarusians struggling in the country's pro-democracy movement.
"We join the international community in strongly condemning your unjust and illegitimate detainment by the Belarusian authorities," the congressmen said in their letter. "We stand ready to hold those complicit in your illegitimate detention to account through targeted sanctions working with our friends and allies in the European Union."
The U.S. State Department and other members of Congress have previously condemned the wrongful detention of Losik and other political prisoners.
On April 19, the U.S. State Department announced it would not renew a special license authorizing transactions with nine state-owned Belarusian companies, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that the country's "regression" on human rights is "exemplified" by independent media experts like Losik and other Belarusians "unjustly imprisoned by the Lukashenka regime for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms."