US Condemns Belarus Action Against Union of Belarusian Poles

By Alan Gray, NewsBlaze

The Union of Poles in Belarus, Belarus' biggest independent non-governmental organisation, has been targeted by the Belarus government. Union members have been arrested and the organization's newspaper closed.

The Polish government accused Belarus of purposely creating tension after the expulsion of three Polish diplomats.

The U.S. State Department issued the following statement:

"The United States condemns the actions taken by the Belarusian government against the Union of Belarusian Poles. The arrest of the Union 's members, the closure of its newspaper, and use of riot police to seize the Union's office are part of a continuing pattern of harassment against those seeking to peacefully express their views."

"In the past two months Belarus has closed 80 percent of the local offices of three major parties, jailed activists, and levied massive fines against the few remaining independent newspapers. The United States calls on Belarus' leadership to end these abuses and to respect the rights of the Belarusian people."

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was elected in July 1994 to a five-year term. Since then, he has consolidated power into the executive branch through authoritarian means.

In November 1996, Lukashenko used a non-democratic referendum to amend the 1994 Constitution in order to broaden his powers and extend his term in office.