Canada Responds to Sentencing of Belarus Opposition Activists

(No. 134 - May 16, 2011 - 4:45 p.m. ET) The Government of Canada today issued the following statement in response to Belarus’s sentencing of five opposition activists, in particular former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, who is to serve five years in a high-security penal colony on the charge of organizing mass disorder after the country’s flawed December 19, 2010, presidential election:

Canada condemns the conviction and sentencing of Andrei Sannikov and four other Belarusian opposition activists. We urge Belarus to immediately stop all politically motivated trials, including those of other former presidential candidates. We once again call on the Belarusian authorities to end their ongoing harassment of civil society, the opposition and the media, as well as to release all political prisoners.

Canadians remain deeply concerned that Belarus is imposing harsh prison sentences on people expressing their views on the election results. We are disappointed by the deterioration of human rights and democratic governance in Belarus. We are appalled by the continuing repression of members of Belarusian civil society and the opposition, who have been subjected to arrests, detentions, searches and trials since the election.

Canada recently sent a diplomat to observe a portion of these trials in Minsk.

Canada wishes to express its full solidarity with Mr. Sannikov, his family and the families of other defendants who have been convicted or will face trial in the near future. We will continue to work with other like-minded countries to address Belarus’s lack of respect for fundamental human rights.

Canada is a vigorous defender of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

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