The top two members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 24 called for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus, including blogger and RFE/RL consultant Ihar Losik, and pledged their support for the pro-democracy movement in the country.
“We will continue to support the Belarusian people’s democratic aspirations until the illegitimate [Alyaksandr] Lukashenka steps down, all political prisoners -- including RFE/RL consultant Ihar Losik -- are released and new free and fair elections are held,” Representatives Gregory Meeks (Democrat-New York) and Representative Michael McCaul (Republican-Texas) said in a statement.
The statement said that in the seven months since Lukashenka “rigged the presidential election” the Belarusian people have “courageously continued their struggle for democracy and freedom in the face of violent repression.”
It also mentioned Freedom Day in Belarus, celebrated on March 25 to commemorate the anniversary of the Belarusian People's Republic, which existed for less than a year in 1918.
“We stand in solidarity with all of those who, like their forebearers who sought to rid Belarus of authoritarianism in 1918, wave the white-and-red flag and demand a democratic future for their country,” Meeks and McCaul said in the statement.
Losik, 28, has been jailed in Belarus since June on charges his supporters say are trumped up.
The blogger's wife, Darya Losik, told RFE/RL on March 22 that her husband's pretrial detention had been prolonged until May 25. RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has condemned the extension and called for his release.
Losik works for RFE/RL as a consultant on new-media technologies.
He had been charged initially with allegedly using his popular Telegram channel to "prepare to disrupt public order" ahead of the August 9 presidential election.
On March 11, Losik was informed of additional unspecified charges that have never been made public. After hearing of the charges, he slit his wrists and launched a four-day hunger strike.