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Poland calls on Belarus to free political prisoners

In February 2023, Poczobut was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Artur Reszko/PAP

The Polish Foreign Ministry has appealed to Minsk to free all political prisoners, including a Polish minority activist.

“On today’s Political Prisoner’s Day, we once again call on the authorities in Minsk to release all detainees, including A. Poczobut, and to stop further repression,” the ministry tweeted on Sunday.

Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and an active member of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), a Polish minority organisation that had been delegalised by the Belarusian authorities, had been arrested in March 2021 on charges of “instigating hatred against religious and national groups, and rehabilitating Nazism.” In February 2023, he was sentenced to eight years in prison, a ruling which he has appealed.

A few days ago, the Belarusian Viasna Human Rights Centre designated May 21 as a Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Belarus, marking the death of political prisoner Vitold Ashurak, who died in a penal colony on this day two years before.

“Almost 1,500 people are political prisoners in Belarus,” the Polish ministry added.

A day after Poczobut’s sentence was announced, Poland closed the vital Bobrowniki crossing with Belarus and followed up with further transport restrictions, saying they would be lifted if Poczobut was released.

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