Polish Foreign Ministry calls for release of Polish reporter arrested in Belarus
June 25, 2012
Poland’s Foreign ministry is making efforts for the release of Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarus correspondent for one of Poland's leading newspapers, detained by Belarusian police, Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki said in a statement on Friday.
“Warsaw is seriously concerned about the arrest of Andrzej Poczobut, a Grodno-based correspondent of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza," Bosacki said. "The Polish consulate in Grodno and the Polish embassy in Minsk are closely following developments in his case. The arrest is another evidence of a very poor situation regarding human rights in Belarus, including the rights of the ethnic Polish minority, "he said.
Poczobut, a prominent activist of the informal Union of Poles in Belarus, was arrested on June 21 in the Belarusian city of Grodno for allegedly slandering the president, Alexander Lukashenko, in connection with his online articles on the death penalty verdicts against two men for the 2011 terrorist attack in the Minsk metro.
The police searched his apartment, seized his computer and said "they would not leave him alone" until Poczobut stops criticizing Lukashenko, his wife Oksana Poczobut said.
The journalist faces a jail sentence of up to five years.
It is the second time Poczobut has been arrested for the crime of supposedly insulting the authoritarian ruler of Belarus. Last year, Poczobut spent three months in jail last year before getting a suspended three-year sentence for articles he wrote that were critical of the president Lukashenko.
At that time, Amnesty International recognized Poczobut as a prisoner of conscience, and the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, had strongly demanded Poczobut's immediate release.
On June 22, Polish Foreign Ministry summoned Ambassador of Belarus Viktor Gaisenok. Under Secretary Jerzy Pomianowski handed over a note of protest to the Ambassador over the arrest of Poczobut and demanded his immediate release from custody, Bosacki said in a statement.
The Polish Foreign Ministry said that Poczobut is an independent journalist as well as the head of a council representing a large ethnic Polish community in Belarus, and that his arrest could trigger further tightening of the existing EU sanctions against Belarus.
The US and EU has introduced sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes against Lukashenko and some of his officials after a crack-down on public protests against the president's re-election in December 2010.
The Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovię, condemned the arrest of Belarusian journalist. She called the new charges against him for libel of Lukashenko politically motivated.