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U.S. Department of State
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Press Statement


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Press Statement by James B. Foley, Deputy Spokesman
January 24, 2000

Belarus: Setbacks for the Rule of Law

Recent developments in Belarus continue a pattern of growing repression and further set back the prospects for resolving the constitutional and political crisis facing the country. Legal proceedings resumed on January 19 against former Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir. Politically motivated charges against Mr. Chigir, who was unjustly imprisoned for nine months, were brought against him in March 1999 only after he declared his candidacy for president. On January 14, former Minister of Agriculture Vasily Leonov, who had languished in detention for two years, was sentenced to four years imprisonment on fabricated charges. Like Mr. Chigir, Mr. Leonov's only real offense was disagreeing with the policies of the Lukashenko regime.

Other recent developments include: the continuing political trial of Parliamentary Deputy Andrei Klimov, who was brutally beaten by prison guards on December 13; the conviction of young democratic activist Yawhen Asinski for taking part in a demonstration against the regime; and the failure of the authorities to investigate human rights lawyer Oleg Volchek's formal complaint against police officers who beat him at an anti-Lukashenko rally on July 21, 1999.

The U.S. Government condemns this growing repression and expresses its strong support for those seeking to promote democratic reform in Belarus. We urge the Lukashenko regime to cease its persecution of political opponents. Such action is essential if the OSCE-sponsored dialogue process is to have any chance of success.

[end of document]

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