German FM condemns Belarus opposition leaders sentences

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle condemned on Saturday the conviction of Belarusian opposition leaders for taking part in mass protests after last year’s presidential poll.

Former presidential candidates Nikolai Neklyayev and Vitaly Rymashevsky were given a two-year suspended sentence on Friday.

Neklyayev and Rymashevsky were among seven presidential candidates detained at a rally on December 19 against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko with nearly 80 percent of the vote. Hundreds of protesters were beaten and detained at the demonstration over the results of the election, which Western monitors described as “flawed.”

Speaking to reporters after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, Westerwelle accused Lukashenko of “political lawlessness” and said the prosecution of the country’s opposition activists was “unjustified and unfair.”

“We are convinced that if human rights are not observed, a clear response from the European Union is needed,” he said.

Westerwelle joined France and Poland in calling for fresh sanctions against Lukashenko. In January, the EU announced a travel ban and asset freeze on Lukashenko and about his top aides.

Germany the sanctions would be designed to affect only the targeted officials.

Last week, Lukashenko’s main opponent during the December election, Andrei Sannikov, was jailed for five years.

Several other opposition activists were handed prison terms of up four years.

In March, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing hundreds of cases of torture and inhumane treatment of jailed protesters.

KALININGRAD, May 21 (RIA Novosti)

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