Aleksandr Kozulin Is Released!

Michael Batiukov

Aleksandr Kozulin, who has challenged the authoritarian "president" of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko in presidential elections of 2006, was released from jail on August 16, 2008 after being over there for 875 days.

A former candidate for presidency in the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Kozulin was hurled into prison for staging protest rallies against rigging of presidential elections on Freedom day March 25, 2006. On July 12th, 2006 Minsk city court sentenced Aleksandr Kozulin to 5.5 years of imprisonment. In prison Aleksandr Kozulin announced a hunger strike, demanding to consider the Belarusian problem in the UN Security Council. The political prisoner was on hunger strike for 53 days and lost more than 40 kilograms of his weight. His health has been irreparably damaged.

"I welcome the release of Alexander Kozulin. He and his family have shown incredible resilience, defending their rights and views on life", - said the leader of the civil campaign "European Belarus" Andrei Sannikov.

"It is now necessary to release all political prisoners in Belarus. Next on the agenda is ending the repression against the opposition and the holding of genuinely free and democratic elections. It may be necessary to talk about postponement of the parliamentary elections at a later date. Because after mass non-inclusion of opposition representatives in the precinct commission, September 28, 2008 could be held only electoral farce ", - said the leader of the civil campaign "European Belarus".

Also, I would like to remind the readers that on November 21, 2006 European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner presented a document setting out what the EU could bring to Belarus, if Belarus would engage in democratization and respect for human rights and rule of law. The document was being transmitted to the Belarus authorities both in Minsk and Brussels.

The paper made clear that "the people of Belarus are the first victims of the isolation imposed by the country's authorities, and willl be the first to reap the benefits on offer to a democratic Belarus".

Commissioner Ferrero Waldner said: "The people of Belarus have a right to know what they are missing. Our message is that as soon as the country indicates a willingness to move towards true democracy, human rights and rule of law, we will be ready to enter into a full partnership with Belarus within the framework of the ENP.

The ENP is a special relationship between the EU and its neighbours, which supports political, economic and social reform in partner countries, and seeks to share the prosperity and stability enjoyed by EU member states with those on the EU's borders. The EU would like to build such a relationship with Belarus."

If Belarus respected human rights, democracy and rule of law, respecting its commitments as a member of the UN and of the OSCE, Belarus could become a full participant in the ENP. The EU and Belarus would work together to achieve improvements in people's lives including:

new trade opportunities to boost the Belarusian economy and create more and better job opportunities;

improve provision of healthcare and education and support for the most vulnerable in society;

improved transport and energy networks, and management of environmental issues;

reform of the legal and judicial system to ensure equal rights for all;

greater cross-border co operation.

What can the Belarusian government do to open up these opportunities? For these possibilities to be open to the Belarusian people, the Belarusian authorities

need to respect the right of the people of Belarus:

to elect their leaders democratically;

express themselves freely, and have access to independent information for all;

to set-up associations and non-profit organizations;

to fair and transparent treatment by the judicial system.

No one should be imprisoned for having expressed their opinion and no one should be denied the right to participate in the determination of their countries' future.

No more electoral farce in Belarus 2008!



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