EU imposes travel and economic sanctions on Belarusian officials

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BRUSSELS: The European Union's Foreign Affairs Council on Monday imposed travel and economic sanctions on Belarusian officials due to their involvement on post-election violence.

"I welcome today's Council's decision to impose travel restrictions and an asset freeze against Belarusian officials responsible for fraudulent 2010 presidential elections and the subsequent violent crackdown on the democratic opposition, civil society and independent media," said European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek.

The Council imposed travel restrictions and an asset freeze against persons responsible of the controversial elections held on December 19. In addition, the Council decided to reinstate the travel restrictions imposed on certain persons in Belarus in relation to the 2004 and 2006 elections.

Such travel restrictions have been suspended since October 2008. The restrictive measures and the list of persons sanctioned will be under constant review from the Council. The names of the sanctioned officials were not disclosed.

In order to lift the sanctions, the EU demands the immediate and unconditional release and rehabilitation of all those detained during the election and in its aftermath on political grounds.

This, along with progress towards further reforms of the Electoral Code, the freedom of expression and of the media, the freedom of assembly and association, would be essential elements for removing restrictions.

"The release of seven people at the weekend, including one of the presidential candidates Uladzimir Nyaklyayew and prominent journalist Iryna Khalip is not enough," added Buzek. "I deplore the conditions in which they were released and that some of them were placed under house arrest with KGB agents monitoring their every move."

Buzek referred to Saturday's released from jail of Belarusian ex-presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev and Irina Khalip, a journalist for the Belarusian Novaya Gazeta and wife of Sannikov, after six weeks. The couple will remain under house arrest.

Belarusian authorities arrested six opposition candidates in Minsk last December 19 after participating in a rally in protest of the controversial election results. The candidates were beaten and taken by KGB agents to undisclosed facilities until it was later informed that they were held at a KGB detention center.

The Council also expressed its concern over the decision of not to renew the mandate of the OSCE Office in Minsk by the Belarusian authorities. The EU considers that the mandate of the OSCE Office has not yet been fulfilled and calls for an urgent reversal of this decision.

(BNO NEWS )

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