German foreign minister backs call for end to Belarusian persecution

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Minister Heiko Maas joined
Minister Heiko Maas joined

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas joined 29 German and Swedish lawmakers on Wednesday in calling for an end to the persecution of peaceful protesters and human rights defenders in Belarus.

The appeal has been sent to Belarusian authorities and criticizes the continuous targeting of the human rights organisation Viasna and its supporters, the Stockholm-based Right Livelihood Award Foundation said.

The foundation manages an award often called the alternative Nobel prize and among this year’s winners were Viasna and Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski.

Mass protests, arrests and clashes between police and protesters have hit Belarus since August, following the disputed election that returned President Alexander Lukashenko for his sixth consecutive term in office in the former Soviet state.

“This peaceful protest demanding respect for basic freedoms can only succeed with assistance from the international community,’’ Bialiatski said. “Otherwise, the entire country will be lost in a Stalinesque dictatorship.’’

Bialiatski founded Viasna in 1996, and has been jailed several times over his activities.

In Germany, the appeal was signed by among others, Norbert Roettgen of the Christian Democrats and a leading foreign policy expert in the Bundestag or parliament and Gyde Jensen of the pro-business Free Democrats, who chairs the Bundestag’s human rights commission.

In Sweden, signatories included Lotta Johnson Fornarve of the opposition Left Party. She is the  third deputy speaker in the Swedish legislature.

The 2020 Right Livelihood Awards were due to be presented on Thursday at an online ceremony. (dpa/NAN)

2nd Dec 2020@12:56 GMT/

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