Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Swedish MEP urges prosecutor general to immediately release Ales Byalyatski

Olle Schmidt, a Swedish member of the European Parliament, has called on Belarusian Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich to immediately release Ales Byalyatski, chairman of a human rights organization called Vyasna.

Mr. Byalyatski "provides significant services to the Belarusian people" through his work as chairman of Vyasna, the MEP says in an open letter, describing that work as "crucially important."

"In spite of this, he and the Viasna [Vyasna] organisation face political persecution, orchestrated by the Belarus regime," Mr. Schmidt says. "It is of double concern, therefore, that Mr. Bialiatski [Byalyatski] as a known representative of those who struggle for freedom and human rights in Belarus now risks long imprisonment on faulty and politically motivated grounds. Mr. Bialiatski must be considered a political prisoner."

Belarus has, unfortunately, a tarnished record of unlawfully holding political prisoners, of mistreatments amounting to torture reported from state prisons, and of unfree and unfair trials, in open mockery of the rule of law, Mr. Schmidt notes.

"The world sees what happens in Belarus," he says. "We listen, worry and will not stay silent or passive in the face of any further violations of the universal human rights."

Mr. Schmidt expresses hope that the situation in Belarus will "turn for the better, for more of democracy, rule of law and a decent human rights situation including freedom for the human rights workers to do their job."

"I sincerely hope that this ongoing case against Mr. Bialiatski will not provide another disappointment to this vision of a free and prosperous Belarus within the European neighbourhood," Mr. Schmidt says.

He urges the prosecutor general to immediately release Mr. Byalyatski from custody, drop all charges against him, and remove any restrictions on his freedom of movement.

"Rest assured that I will follow the coming developments closely," Mr. Schmidt concludes.