Foreign Minister Makey: There are no political prisoners in Belarus

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There are no political prisoners in Belarus, Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey told reporters Friday in Vilnius on the sidelines of the Third Eastern Partnership Summit.

“Those called political prisoners are held in prison for specific criminal offenses,” Mr. Makey noted, adding that in other countries, they would probably have been given longer prison terms.

“The European Union’s sanctions against Belarus should be lifted or else there will be no progress in talks”, Mr. Makey said. “There should be a dialogue. All problems that exist in our relations with the EU should be solved in the process of dialogue.”

When asked whether the Belarusian authorities would release political prisoners in exchange for the abolition of the EU sanctions, Mr. Makey said: “This question should not be posed to the foreign ministry but to the agencies that made those decisions. Our courts are independent and therefore you should ask them this question. But I am sure that if those prisoners submitted applications for a pardon, those applications would be considered and a positive decision would possibly be made.

According to Mr. Makey, by setting preliminary conditions, such as the release of political prisoners, the EU worsens the atmosphere of the dialogue.

“I believe that there should be a dialogue under any circumstances,” he said. “Setting some conditions before the dialogue begins is an absolutely senseless thing. I believe that …the dialogue should be maintained without setting any conditions.”

For more information on situation of political prisoners in Belarus, see HRC “Viasna” and FIDH analytical note : Political prisoners in critical situation and restricted freedom for 33 activists

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