Polish minority leader in Belarus sentenced to 15 days in jail
A Belarusian court on Wednesday sentenced Andżelika Borys, leader of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), to 15 days in jail for violating a law on mass gatherings.
Borys, who was re-elected to the ZPB chair on Saturday, was arrested by police in Grodno, western Belarus, on Tuesday.
During a hearing on Wednesday, Borys was charged with violating a law on mass gatherings for organising an annual fair traditionally held in the city.
The hearing took place in the prison at which Borys is being held.
ZPB wrote in a statement on Wednesday that the arrest of Borys was a ploy aimed at intimidating the Polish minority in Belarus.
On Tuesday evening, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland would intervene in the matter.
"We do not agree to treating Poles in such a way, to taking this type of hostage, as you can say about this type of action, which the Belarusian authorities carry out on a larger scale. This action is absolutely inconsistent with any international standards," Morawiecki said.
Morawiecki announced that he would raise the matter during the European Council meeting on Thursday.
The Polish PM went on to claim that today people should build bridges between the Polish and Belarusian nations, not walls.
He added that the Belarusian authorities are doing everything they can to destroy good relations between Poles and Belarusians. "They fail to do so, therefore they tighten their methods even more," he said.
The PM recalled that on Tuesday the charge d'affaires of Belarus was called to the Foreign Ministry after receiving a strong objection from the Polish side.
"Similarly yesterday, our consul in Grodno travelled to Grodno to meet the local authorities to explain what is happening to President Andżelika Borys," Morawiecki said.
Seated in Grodno, a city with a large Polish population, ZPB is the biggest Polish diaspora organisation in Belarus. In 2005, the union was outlawed by the Belarusian authorities but has continued its activities despite the ban.
In the meantime, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcin Przydacz announced on Wednesday that Poland, along with 18 other countries, was launching the "International Accountability Platform for Belarus," an independent NGO mechanism whose aim is to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations in Belarus.
Political demonstrations demanding President Lukashenko resign and that new, fair elections be called, have been taking place in Belarus since August 9.