14:00 - BELARUS: MIGNON (PACE) RELEASE OF OPPONENTS, A GOOD THING. FREE THEM ALL AND OPEN INVESTIGATION
Jean-Claude Mignon, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, welcomes the release of the Belarusan opponent and former presidential nominee Andrei Sannikov, whom in May had been sentenced to five years in prison, and of his former assistant Dzmitry Bandarenka, and urges president Lukashenko to fully free and rehabilitate all the other political prisoners. Recalling that last January PACE had deplored that a given number of people, including former presidential nominees, civil activists and well-known human rights defenders, should stay in prison for political reasons, Mignon mentioned the Assemblys resolution 1857 and explained that some of the pardoned political prisoners stated that, in order to be released, they were forced to ask for clemency and plead guilty. In many cases, he added, the freed prisoners state they were tortured, received poor medical care and were denied actual access to legal defence. Hence the call for an extensive and reliable investigation into such charges of abuse and torture during arrest and imprisonment, defined by the president of PACE as essential.