Belarusian police have arrested opposition leader Anatoly Lebedko for so-called hooliganism and for organizing a peaceful demonstration. On July 16th, Mr. Lebedko staged a protest outside the Russian embassy in Minsk, the capital, against Russia's support for Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko. Thirty of Mr. Lebedko's fellow demonstrators were also arrested.
U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Julie Finley called the detention "a travesty of justice." The government of President Alexander Lukashenko has "demonstrated flagrant and total disregard for the democratic process and O-S-C-E values," said Ambassador Finley.
Other government opponents remain in jail in Belarus. Opposition leader Aleksander Kozulin was sentenced to five-and-one-half years in prison for leading an unauthorized rally. In a statement, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said "The entire trial was a politically motivated process designed to punish Kozulin for expressing his political views."
Back in February, the Belarusian K-G-B arrested four Belarusian civic activists associated with the non-partisan monitoring group Partnership, which seeks to train Belarusians on election observation and educate them on their rights as voters. The K-G-B also raided their homes and offices and seized documents and equipment. The four activists remain in detention, accused of “slandering the president and illegally running an unregistered organization," and could spend up to two years in jail.
President Lukashenko has maintained his grip on power by suppressing dissent and holding fraudulent elections. "It was these sorts of actions," said Ambassador Finley, "that led the United States and the European Union to impose targeted travel restrictions and financial sanctions against those individuals responsible for this recent electoral fraud." Ms. Finley was referring to the rigged presidential election held in Belarus in March.
President George W. Bush has referred to President Lukashenko's government as the "last outpost of tyranny in Europe." "At this critical time in history," said Mr. Bush, "no nation can evade the demands of human dignity." The government of Belarus must become accountable to its citizens and embrace democracy.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.