Demonstration for human rights in Belarus held in Prague

Prague - Belarussian organisations in the Czech Republic today staged a demonstration in Prague at which they asked European countries to bear in mind the need of democratisation of public life and human rights observance in Belarus in the preparations of cooperation with the country.

There were no incidents during the demonstration, attended by some 40 people and patrolled by eight police.

Later today, the European Union wants to launch officially the Eastern Partnership project that reckons with the involvement of six post-Soviet countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

If certain conditions are fulfilled, the countries are to be allowed to conclude association agreements with the EU.

The joint declaration is to mention human rights observance, support to democratisation, political and security cooperation and support to the market economy.

The project is among the priorities of the Czech EU presidency. Today's Prague summit was to be the apex of the Czech EU presidency, but a number of EU heads of state are absent from it.

This is a continuation of the weak participation of senior politicians in the events held under the Czech EU presidency that started after the March fall of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's center-right government.

Alexander Lukashenko has been ruling in Belarus since 1994. He has concentrated all powers in his hands, using referenda and controversial decrees. Brutal reprisals have been used against the Belarussian opposition.

Western observers call him the last European dictator and the EU has imposed sanctions on Belarus.

Lukashenko does not attend the Prague summit and he has sent two of his representatives to it.

The protesters waved banners saying Stop Dictatorship and Freedom for Political Prisoners in Belarus.

The demonstrators waved ten Belarussian flags and one flag of the EU, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Speeches were delivered by opposition leaders Alyaksandr Kozulin and Zenon Poznyak, first president of Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich and Ivanka Survilla, president of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Exile.

"The Belorussian opposition is variegated, but not very big. The Lukashenko regime has pushed it to the margin of society and it cherishes no illusions about its perception by most of the population," Katerina Spacova, from the group Civic Belarus, told CTK.

The West took some measures against Lukashenko's regime after the 2006 presidential elections in Belarus when the country experienced a wave of protests, followed by police brutality, arrests and court trials.

Arguing that the elections were rigged, the USA and the EU banned Lukashenko and his closest assistants from travelling to the West. The EU froze the assets of Lukashenko and another 36 representatives of his regime. Washington took a similar step.



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