Britain expresses deep concern over Belarus rights arrest
Britain expressed deep concern Saturday at the arrest in Belarus of a human rights activist charged with crimes punishable by seven years in jail.
"This appears to be a further example of the blatant harassment of human rights defenders in Belarus," Europe minister David Lidington said of the detention of Vyasna (Spring) leader Ales Beliatsky.
Beliatsky had spearheaded his organisation's drive to help political prisoners and provide legal support to those who dared rise against President Alexander Lukashenko's dictatorial rule.
The group was also instrumental in releasing details about those detained during a weekly series of protests inspired by the social network revolutions of the Arab world.
Vyasna has been the target of repeated police raids and Beliatsky's arrest Thursday evening was on tax evasion charges. The group's office was also searched and various documents removed.
London urged Belarus to ensure the rights and freedoms of all human rights defenders are fully upheld under the international treaties the government has ratified.
"The UK will be raising the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus with EU partners," said Lidington.
Officials from the United Nations and European Union on Friday called on Belarus to release Beliatsky, along with the country's neighbours Lithuania and Poland.
The government in Belarus last month shocked even its most ardent critics by drafting a bill that would give the authorities power to crack down on protesters engaging publicly in "non-actions".
The authorities have in recent weeks been trying to thwart opposition-organised flash mob-style protests in which demonstrators have protested simply by clapping their hands.
© 2011 AFP