Head of OSCE Minsk Office visits Mikhail Marinich in prison hospital

/ MINSK, 23 March 2005 - The Head of the OSCE Office in Minsk, Ambassador Eberhard Heyken, together with British Ambassador Brian Bennett and the lawyer Ms. Vera Stremkovksaya, today visited former Minister of Foreign Economics Relations Mikhail Marinich in the First Colony prison hospital in Minsk.

"I am pleased to have had the opportunity to see Mr Marinich, particularly after recent reports about the state of his health," said Ambassador Heyken. "While his health has certainly deteriorated since our last meeting, his mental resolve remains strong."

On 30 December 2004, the court found Mr Marinich guilty of misappropriation of property through abuse of office and sentenced him to five years in a high-security prison with confiscation of property. He was also prohibited from assuming certain functions and engaging in certain activities.

Following an appeal on 18 February 2005, the Minsk Regional Court reduced the sentence to three and a half years.

At the beginning of March, Mr Marinich suffered a stroke in prison because he had not been receiving the medication previously prescribed to him for the treatment of high blood pressure. The medicine is now being administered in the prison hospital and he is receiving other medicines that he needs urgently. Following medication, his physical condition has improved.

At the request of Mr Marinich, the head of the prison hospital was present throughout the meeting to answer questions related to the patient's physical condition.

The meeting, which lasted around one hour, was conducted with the co-operative assistance of the prison authorities.

Ambassador Heyken conveyed to Mr Marinich that interest in his case in Belarus and among the international community remains high. He expressed the determination of the OSCE Office in Minsk to continue to support Mr Marinich in his efforts to receive fair and appropriate treatment.