Clinton Pledges Support To Belarusian Rights Activists

(RTTNews) - United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has met with Belarusian and Belarusian-American human rights activists in Washington to discuss recent events in Belarus.

She condemned the conduct of Belarus' presidential election and the crackdown on political leaders and activists, civil society representatives and journalists. She expressed concern for detainees and for their family members, noting the efforts of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk to remain in close contact with them.

United States and the European Union had issued two joint statements condemning the violence and calling for the immediate release of all the detainees. Repeating this appeal, Clinton urged for an end to repressive measures against the Opposition, the media and civil society.

She told the human rights activists that the U.S. government was "watching the Belarusian government's actions closely and considering our response to those actions." Clinton pledged her country's continued support for and engagement with the people of Belarus.

Incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected for a fourth term with a landslide majority in the December 19 presidential election.

Declaration of the results followed violent anti-government protests in the capital with thousands of Opposition supporters taking to the streets alleging electoral fraud behind his victory.

Police and KGB agents detained more than 600 protesters, including presidential contestants. Four lost candidates face charges of having called for the unauthorized rallies against Lukashenko's re-election, which carry sentences of up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.

Last Friday, Belarus government ordered the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to end its operations in the country in apparent response to its criticism of the election.

A joint statement issued later by Clinton and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said the controversial presidential election and the repression of post-poll protests took Belarus a 'step backwards' from democracy.


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