Updated at 01:25,03-03-2021

Families of political prisoners write to Swedish pop star


The families of Belarus' political prisoners have written to the winner of this year's Eurovision Song Contest who has been invited to a festival in Vitsyebsk later this month.

Sweden's Loreen is expected to sing at Slavyanski Bazar, an annual art festival held in the city in northern Belarus since the early 1990s.

In their letter to the 28-year-old singer, the relatives of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's imprisoned political opponents warn that Belarus is the only country in Europe where top government officials are targeted by European Union sanctions over human rights abuse, vote rigging and the persecution of critics of the government, Alyaksandr Atroshchankaw, spokesman for an opposition group called European Belarus, told BelaPAN.

They refer to the brutal crackdown on the December 19, 2010 post-election street protest and the imprisonment of dozens of Mr. Lukashenka's opponents.

"We cannot deprive our compatriots of the right to enjoy your music and your talent as a performer. But we hope that you will keep in mind that this festival has always been used by the authorities as a powerful propaganda opportunity, as a means of demonstrating international support for the ruling regime. Please, don't let them use your name and presence for their purposes," the letter says.

The letter has been signed by the families of activists who are currently held in prison and former political prisoners who have already been freed.

Loreen met with Azerbaijani human rights activists and opposition politicians on the sidelines of the song contest in Baku this past May. She openly criticized Azerbaijan's human rights record.