EU holds key to Minsk liberation

BRUSSELS, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The European Union holds the keys to liberating opposition leaders detained by authorities in Belarus, the daughter of a presidential candidate said.

Elections in Belarus raised hoped that what Western allies described as Europe's last dictatorship would open up. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was monitoring the December vote, called the election flawed when incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko took nearly 80 percent of the vote.

More than 600 people, including opposition candidates, were detained in Minsk during a crackdown on demonstrators after the opposition said the election was rigged.

European lawmakers debated imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on Belarusian officials involved in the post-election crackdown. Any sanctions would be lifted, Europe said, when opposition leaders are freed.

"Our first priority is the release of all those remaining in prison who were detained on the election night," said European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek in a statement.

Lawmakers squabbled over whether to sever ties with Belarus completely or send in delegates to investigate the political repression.

Eva Nyaklyaeva, the daughter of a jailed presidential candidate Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu, said Europe's decision was vital for the future of Belarus.

"You have a key to my father's liberation," she told European lawmakers. "We totally depend on international solidarity now."


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