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EU Targets Belarus Minister, Lawyers Over Byalyatski Case, Others

Ales Byalyatski (file photo)
Belarusian officials targeted by new European Union sanctions include a government minister and others involved in the prosecution of a prominent rights activist.

The names were officially published one day after EU foreign ministers agreed to impose asset freezes and visa bans on 16 individuals.

The 16 are added to a list of nearly 200 Belarusian officials targeted over Minsk's crackdown on government opponents in the wake of last year's disputed presidential election.

They include four people involved in the detention and prosecution of leading human rights activist Ales Byalyatski, the head of the Vyasna (Spring) human rights center in Belarus who was arrested in August and charged with tax evasion.

The arrest of Byalyatski, who was active in defending those caught up in the postelection crackdown, drew widespread international condemnation.

The four are: Tax Minister Uladzimer Paluyan, Judge Uladzimer Kornau, and prosecutors Maksim Shastakou and Volha Herasimovich.

Byalyatski faces up to seven years in prison if found guilty.

His arrest was an embarrassment to EU members Poland and Lithuania after it emerged they unwittingly helped the case against Byalyatski by providing Minsk with his banking information.

Others targeted by the expanded EU sanctions include judges and the directors of two prison camps the EU said were responsible for the "inhuman treatment" of detainees and persecution of jailed former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich and civil society activist Zmitser Dashkevich.

Meanwhile, relatives and colleagues of Byalyatski said on October 11 that they have not received letters from him for more than a month.

Belarusian human rights defender Uladzimer Labkovich told RFE/RL's Belarus Service that "we are really concerned over the fact that we have lost any connection with Ales."

Labkovich added that he, along with Byalyatski's relatives and other colleagues, have been writing to him, but "we are afraid that our letters have not reached him either."

According to Labkovich, the Belarusian authorities may be preventing any contact between Byalyatski and his relatives and colleagues in order to hide "the real situation and conditions faced by Byalyatski in the detention center."

"We are aware that the authorities are conducting repressive measures against jailed political prisoners in general, and therefore we are very concerned that Byalyatski and other political prisoners are literally kept secretly in their cells, unable to talk to the outside world."

Read more in Belarusian here