Belarusian Opposition Leaders Visit Sweden

December 17th, 2009   Uncategorized

During two intense September days, eight Belarusian opposition leaders visited Sweden, invited by the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation. At the very same day of their visit to the Swedish Parliament, oppositional activists were arrested in connection to a demonstration in the Belarusian capital Minsk. They had gathered to mark the ten year anniversary of the disappearance of two people critical of the government. Speaking as the chairman the European Union, the Swedish government filed a complaint regarding the development in Minsk.

In the photo from left Alaksandr Kazulin, Zhana Litvina and Anatoly Lebedko.

In a public seminar, arranged by the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation on Thursday 17th of September, the Belarusians further witness of the risky life of political activists. For example, people belonging to an “un-registered” organization may be put into prison for two years. “Most of us are members of such organizations” Alaksey Yanukyevich, chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front, explained. While the Belarusian president Aleksander Lukashenko has recently taken some steps to meet recent EU demands for a release of political prisoners as a condition for further cooperation between Belarus and the EU, the opposition leaders remained skeptics.“He would never agree to anything which might challenge his authority” argued Anatoly Lebedko, chairman of the United Civil Party. “For an entire two months, there were no political prisons”, Tatsiana Reviaka from the human rights organization Viasna added cynically.

“You could guess that Lukashenko has succeeded in creating a time machine. In Belarus, you feel like you where still in the Soviet Union”, Alaksandr Kazulin, former leader of the Social Democratic Party, noted, while arguing that political oppression was once again increasing. For example, there is a proposal for a new law according to which civilians may be arrested without formal approval by a prosecutor. “We do not have any freedom of speech and the leaders view journalists as propaganda makers” added Zhana Litvina form the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

As the Belarusian delegates presented a very dark view of the situation, the Swedish parliamentarian Christian Holm, who chaired the seminar, looked for ways in which the EU and the surroundings could help.

“You could name free election as a condition for granting credits and loans,” suggested Anatoly Lebedko while continuing “You cannot have free elections without political parties. And you cannot, at the same time, have political prisoners”. Finally, he added, the death penalty must be abolished.

Text: Elisabeth Precht

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