Updated at 13:48,15-08-2017

Belarusian rights defenders ask KGB for information about priest Uladzislaw Lazar

by Syarhey KARALEVICH, naviny.by

A Belarusian human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring) has made an inquiry with the Committee for State Security (KGB), asking it why Roman Catholic priest Uladzislaw Lazar was arrested, where he is being held, and what he is suspected of, BelaPAN.

The disclosure of such information would not violate the principle of secrecy of investigation or jeopardize the national interests of Belarus or public order, Vyasna says in its open letter.

The constitution of Belarus guarantees the right of its citizens to obtain full, accurate and timely information about the activities of governmental agencies, the letter says.

Vyasna says that although it receives reports of human rights violations in Belarus by authorities on a regular basis, it cannot obtain any official information about some cases, however much public attention they attract.

Vyasna calls on the Prosecutor General`s Office, the interior ministry, the Committee for State Security (KGB) and the Investigative Committee to inform the public through the media and their own websites about every high-profile case of human rights abuse in Belarus.

Irrespective of the gravity of the charges, detained individuals should enjoy the same rights as everybody else and should not be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Vyasna stresses.

Yury Sanko, acting spokesman for the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Belarus, confirmed in late July that the Rev. Uladzislaw Lazar, minister of the Holy Spirit Descension Parish in Barysaw, Minsk region, had been held in a KGB jail since the beginning of June.

"We are aware of this, but we do not know exactly what he was arrested for," he said.

This case is being dealt with by governmental agencies and attended to by the Apostolic Nunciature to Belarus, Mr. Sanko noted.

He said that he did not have enough information to link the arrest of the priest to a statement made by Alyaksandr Lukashenka on July 26 that authorities had recently arrested an officer of a Belarusian intelligence agency who had supplied information to "foreign states" through representatives of the Catholic Church.

Uladzislaw Lazar, a citizen of Belarus, graduated from Hrodna Seminary and then completed a theological course in Poland. He served in Maryina Horka and Rudzensk, Minsk region, before being appointed minister of the Holy Spirit Descension Parish in Barysaw in April 2013.

News website telegraf.by reported on Monday that a postcard for Mr. Lazar had been delivered back to its correspondent, which might indicate that the inmate had been transferred to another detention facility.

When reached by BelaPAN, KGB spokesman Artur Strekh refused to say anything about Mr. Lazar.