The European Parliament has called for economic sanctions to be imposed against Lukashenko

The European Parliament has called on the EU to impose sanctions against the Belarusian authorities, and has also demanded of Minsk that it stop the persecution of its presidential candidates.

As noted in the document, the European Union must “extend the restrictive measures against the Belarusian regime, including the imposition of targeted economic sanctions, in particular against state enterprises”.

MEPs also called on the officialdom in Minsk to “acquit” the presidential candidates and “stop their persecution”. In the opinion of the MEPs, the charges which have been brought forward – of organising riots – are “illegal and unacceptable”.

The European Parliament considers all the charges in the criminal case about the riots to be spurious and politically motivated. The resolution stresses that the trials which have already taken place, and are currently taking place, are not fair: a lawyer was prevented from working at the investigation stage, and the guilt of the accused has not been proven in court.

The European Parliament thinks that the charges against Andrei Sannikov, Nikolai Statkevich, Vladimir Neklyaev, Vitalii Rymashevskii, Nikolai Statkevich and Dmitrii Uss are illegal and invalid and calls for the release of the presidential candidates. On this basis, MEPs are calling for the release of all political prisoners and the withdrawal of the charges against them.

The document also condemns the Belarusian authorities for its failure to conduct an independent investigation into the use of excessive force by police and security forces against demonstrators, and particularly for its refusal to allow the work of the special mission under OSCE auspices.

The MEPs pay special attention to situation concerning the media. They note the increasing pressure on independent media and journalists and call upon the authorities to release the journalist Andrei Pochobut, to stop processes for closing “Narodnaya Volya” and “Nasha Niva”, and not to restrict access to the sites and “Belarusian Partisan”.

Further, the resolution calls (upon the Belarusian government) not to interfere with the activities of Russian and Ukrainian human rights activists, as well as not to discredit Belarusians, recalling the recent words of Alexander Lukashenko and the state media about the “fifth column in the country.”

The European Parliament has already urged the Belarusian authorities to release all detained people in the opposition immediately, and drop the charges made against them. In February 2011, the EU suspended Belarus from participating in the “Eastern Partnership” programme. Also In February, the EU sanctions against 175 Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko, took effect. They were banned from entering the EU; also if they had any financial assets in EU countries, such assets were frozen.

On Wednesday 11 May, the President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, sent a letter to the International Ice Hockey Federation, asking it not to hold its 2014 championship in Belarus, if the authorities in that country do not release all political prisoners arrested after the presidential elections.