EU calls for release of all Belarus political prisoners

(BRUSSELS) - The release of Belarus' former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin was "a positive step" but all remaining political prisoners should also be freed, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said Monday.

"This is a positive step, long expected by the European Union," Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement.

As such imprisonments are "in direct breach of Belarus' international human rights obligations, I also expect the immediate release of the remaining political prisoners," held there she added.

Kozulin, who was jailed in 2006 after leading a protest over alleged corruption in an election that returned President Alexander Lukashenko, was released Saturday.

With EU and US economic sanctions still in place, Lukashenko -- described as "Europe's last dictator" by Washington -- is seeking to improve his image ahead of parliamentary elections on September 28.

The EU commissioner said she hoped Kozulin's release "will help to create a positive momentum in EU-Belarus relations."

The European Union's current president France on Sunday welcomed the release of Kozulin, Belarus' highest-profile political prisoner, saying "This liberation was one of the conditions set by the European Union for the gradual resumption of dialogue with Belarus."



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