Olga Kozulina, daughter of Belarus prisoner of conscience Alyaksandr Kozulin, says the international community should act in support of her father and other political prisoners in Belarus. Ms. Kozulina sent a video-taped message, shown on July 24, to a human rights panel discussion sponsored by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
"We need the help of the United States and international community," she said. As the message was being shown, Ms. Kozulina was in Washington, D.C., taking part in an event honoring democracy and human rights activists. Also present at that event was President George Bush. "We stand with Olga Kozulina. Her father, Alyaksandr Kozulin, remains in prison in Belarus for the 'crime' of running for President," said President Bush.
In 2006, Mr. Kozulin, former rector of Belarus State University and deputy education minister, dared to run against President Alyaksandr Lukashenko. Mr. Lukashenko has controlled the country since 1994. According to his daughter, Mr. Kozulin made a televised appearance in which he condemned, what he termed, the "criminal activities and corruption" of President Lukashenko. In a sham election on March 19, 2006, Mr. Lukashenko extended his arbitrary rule for a third presidential term. A week later, Mr. Kozulin was sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
There are credible reports that Mr. Kozulin was severely beaten by police during his arrest and was refused adequate medical treatment by prison authorities. Nor is he the only political prisoner held by the Belarus regime. Raisa Mikhailovskaya is the producer of a powerful documentary film on prisoners of conscience in Belarus. She says that some fifty-three dissidents have been imprisoned since Mr. Lukashenko took power. Pressure from the European Union and the U.S., she says, has helped free some of the detainees.
For its part, the U.S. continues to call on Belarus authorities to release Alyaksandr Kozulin and other political prisoners and respect the human rights of all the people of Belarus.