An open letter to the President

Secure the Release of All Political Prisoners in Belarus

7 so far! Let’s get to 10 signers!

` Dear Mr. President, I am writing to thank you for your support of democracy in Belarus and ask you to make the release of Belarusian political prisoners your central demand of the Lukashenko regime. To achieve this, we ask you to use sanctions on mid-level bureaucrats in law enforcement, the security apparatus, and the judiciary as leverage. The free exchange of ideas is the centerpiece of democracy and not possible when those who disagree with the government are arrested, beaten, tortured, killed, imprisoned, or exiled. According to the human rights center Viasna, Belarus, a country of 9.35 million people, has 471 political prisoners as of June 7, 2021. The diversion of Ryanair Flight #FR4978 and arrest followed by forced confession of journalist Raman Pratasevich is only the most internationally visible recent example of political hostage-taking. Two recent presidential candidates - Sergei Tsikhanousky and Victor Babariko - sit in jail for challenging Alexander Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election, as does Maria Kolesnikova, Babariko’s campaign manager and part of the female triumvirate led by Sviatlana Tsikhnouskaya that likely defeated Lukashenko in the 2020 election. Several political prisoners have died in jail, including Vitold Ashurak. The regime knows no boundaries as it arrests and incarcerates teenagers like Mikita Zalatarou and Dmitry Stakhovsky, who committed suicide while in custody. The United States is the model for our modern understanding of the centrality of individual rights for a healthy democracy. The Belarusian people cannot have democracy or be free when their very words and peaceful political assembly can land them in jail. We ask that the United States, together with its allies, make it clear that failure to respect human rights and individual freedoms will result in painful economic and political costs.

First sent on June 8 by Friends of a Free and Democratic Belarus

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