EC calls on Belarusian authorities to release persecuted Polish activists

We call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release the president of the Union of Poles (ZPB) in Belarus, Andżelika Borys, and the activist of the Union, Andrzej Poczobut, the European Commission told Polish Press Agency (PAP) on Thursday.

Union of Poles in Belarus’ leader sentenced to 15 days in custody

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As the EC emphasised, the Polish minority is the “latest target of the Belarusian authorities.”

“We are seeing a further escalation of repression against the Belarusian people, including orchestrated campaigns of persecution of human rights defenders, opposition and journalists. Politician and journalist, Ihar Barysau, has recently been the target of attacks. We call on the Belarusian authorities to release all political prisoners. The recent conviction of Andżelika Borys and arrest of Andrzej Poczobut is a clear sign that the Polish minority is the newest target of this policy,” the EC pointed out.

“We expect Belarus to fulfill its international obligations in the field of protection of national minorities, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release Ms Borys and Mr Poczobut” the Commission told PAP.

On Thursday, just after 1 pm local time, a two-day video summit of European Union leaders began. Before its commencement, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that he would raise the topic of the conflict between the regime in Minsk and Poles at the meeting.

Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also referred to the persecution of the Polish activists in Belarus.

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On Thursday morning in Grodno (Western Belarus) Belarusian authorities detained Andrzej Poczobut, a member of ZBP’s board. The head ZBP, Andżelika Borys, was detained on Tuesday and sentenced to 15 days in prison on Wednesday for coordinating the traditional Saint Casimir's Fair in Grodno, which the authorities recognised as “organising an illegal event”.

The Permanent Representation of Poland to the EU called on the Union’s institutions to take decisive action for a democratic Belarus after the arrest of Mr Poczobut and Ms Borys. The escalation of the situation in Belarus and repression being applied was also raised by the Polish ambassador to the EU, Andrzej Sadoś at meetings with ambassadors from other member states and with representatives of EU institutions.

Moreover, Polish President Andrzej Duda asked the Secretary General of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Helga Maria Schmid to add to the agenda the issue of the persecution of Poles in Belarus, the spokesman of the President announced on Thursday. ZPB is the largest organisation of the Polish minority in Belarus. In 2005, the authorities in Minsk revoked its registration.