Updated at 17:36,05-08-2020

Relatives of political detainees urge EU not to soften stance on Lukashenka


Relatives of former presidential candidates Andrey Sannikaw and Uladzimir Nyaklyayew have urged the foreign ministers of the European Union member countries and other EU politicians to adopt the harshest sanctions possible against the Lukashenka regime to punish it for ongoing post-election crackdown on opponents.

"Please do everything possible to influence the EU Council’s decision to ensure the introduction of the harshest sanctions possible so that an end is put to the lawlessness rampant in the very center of Europe," Mr. Sannikaw’s sister, Iryna Bahdanava, and Mr. Nyaklyayew’s daughter, Eva, said in a joint statement issued late on Sunday.

"Please stop fascism in our country," they say.

The two women express shock at Mr. Lukashenka’s move to release Mr. Nyaklyayew and Mr. Sannikaw`s wife from the KGB jail to place them under house arrest in the hope of escaping the EU’s sanctions.

Mr. Nyaklyayew, leader of the "Tell the truth!" campaign, and Mr. Sannikaw’s wife, prominent journalist Iryna Khalip, were freed from the KGB detention center, along with five other people, last week.

The charge of organizing mass riots was not dropped against them. Along with some 30 people, the seven still may face a prison term of up to 15 years over the December 19 post-election protest in central Minsk.

Kept under 24-hour surveillance, Mr. Nyaklyayew and Ms. Khalip are not allowed to leave their homes, use the Internet or talk to the media.
Mr. Sannikaw and two other former candidates, as well as more than 20 other other opposition figures, are still held in the KGB jail.

"The Lukashenka regime once again flirts with Europe," - say the relatives of Messrs. Nyaklyayew and Sannikaw. "We are extremely concerned that his tricks will work again and that European ministers will believe in his allegedly good intentions. Outrageous things that happened before continue. The Lukashenka regime continues to arrest people and raid their homes and offices, pretending that it has decided to yield to demands laid forth by international leaders. In fact, the regime only changed the conditions of the political prisoners` confinement."

Iryna Bahdanava says that her entire family is under severe stress. "Danik [the three-year-old son of Mr. Sannikaw and Ms. Khalip] and Iryna are very much happy that they are together, but they have to put up with 24-hour surveillance by two security officers who follow them from one room to another. We are talking about the child and the woman who is not a criminal and hasn’t done anything bad. In my opinion, this is tantamount to a flagrant violation of human rights and, in particular, the rights of the kid. This is simply inhumane."

Eva Nyaklyayew says that she is not allowed to meet with her father. She says that she does not understand why he was placed under house arrest and may not be examined by a doctor instead of being transferred to a hospital.

"We beg you not to pay attention to Lukashenka’s ‘gestures," the two women say. "It is just a game in which he played before. A leopard cannot change his spots. After the EU softens its position, he will again have his hands free and continue to do whatever he likes."