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Brussels, 5 December 2012
Belarus: reiterating our concerns about the situation of political prisoners
Commissioner for enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle met today representatives the Belarusian Human Rights Organisation VIASNA, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Vice-Chairman of Viasna, Zhanna Litvina, co-founder and chairwoman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Caroline Giraud and Alexandra Koulaeva of International Federation for Human Rights. After the meeting he said:
''This was an important meeting that we had today talking about the situation in Belarus and relations we have with Belarus.
This meeting took place a couple of days after I had the privilege to meet some of you in Stockholm in the framework of the 4th Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum where we talked about civil society organisations, defenders of human rights and independent media being very important partners of the EU. We talked about what I said clearly last week in Stockholm: in Europe there is no space for political prisoners. I repeated today after being informed about the eviction of Viasna from its original premises that there should be no harassment of human rights defenders, so there is a clear message to the Belarusian authorities: don't harass human rights defenders, don't harass those who promote the freedom of speech in Belarus, don't harass those who work for us in the framework of the Dialogue on Modernisation on building a modern and European Belarus.
I have expressed the support of the EU Member States and institutions for the work being done by the human right activists and I have committed to support them even more as unfortunately pressure and oppression by the authorities is not only continuing, it is actually strengthening.
I expressed my concern about the situation and the worsening conditions of a number of political prisoners. I have expressed my concern about news and information on the violation of their rights and I also used this opportunity to make it absolutely clear that we are very interested in having a dialogue, resuming the dialogue with the Belarusian authorities. But there is a clear condition for that and it is to release all political prisoners and rehabilitate them and I made it absolutely clear that through rehabilitation we mean resuming their civic and political rights so they can continue to play an active role in bringing democracy to Belarus and maybe Belarus to the European family.''