EC calls on Belarus to stop persecution of Polish union members

The EC has appealed for Belarusian authorities to cease actions directed against members of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) and has declared its support for Poland, an EC spokesperson told PAP on Thursday.

Peter Stano said that the European Commission had renewed the appeal made by Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and EC Vice-President, for Belarus to fulfill its international obligations regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"We support for Poland in this bilateral Polish-Belarusian affair," he said and added that the EC "had also called on the Belarusian authorities to drop the charges against members of the Union of Poles in Belarus and immediately release them from prison along with other political prisoners."

On Wednesday, Andrzej Pisalnik, a ZPB member and Znadniemna.pl website journalist, and his wife, Iness Todry-Pisalnik, were detained by the Belarus authorities and transported to the capital, Minsk, where they were to give testimony regarding criminal charges against high-ranking ZPB members, including the organisation's president, Andzelika Borys, and Andrzej Poczobut.

Borys and Poczobut have been charged with "inciting hatred" and "rehabilitating Nazism." They face up to 12 years in prison. The Pisalniks have not been detained and are free for now.

In a communique cited by Belarusian state news agency BielTA on Wednesday, the prosecutor's office said Andrzej Pisalnik had broken the law by telling the media that an "anti-Polish campaign" is taking place in Belarus and that he had received an "official warning about the inadmissibility of repeated violations of the law."

Seated in Grodno, a city with a large Polish population, the ZPB is the biggest Polish diaspora organisation in Belarus. In 2005, the authorities in Minsk revoked its registration.

The union's statutory activities include nurturing Polishness and Polish culture, teaching the language and maintaining memorial sites.