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US, EU renew calls for release of Belarus political prisoners

[JURIST] The US Embassy in Minsk [official website] and European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner [official profile] issued renewed calls Monday for Belarus to release all political prisoners currently in custody. US and EU officials specifically urged the release of opposition politician Alexander Kozulin [CFR profile and interview], who was sentenced [JURIST report] to over five years in prison in July 2006 for leading unauthorized protests [JURIST report] over the controversial re-election [JURIST report] of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] earlier that year. Kozulin has reportedly been on a hunger strike since prison authorities refused to allow him to attend the funeral of his wife who died Saturday. AP has more.

The Supreme Court of Belarus last Friday ordered the release of a former newspaper editor who had been sentenced [JURIST reports] to three years in prison for reprinting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive], a move interpreted as an attempt to improve relations with the West. Lukashenko has recently sought to improve his country's ties with western nations, but the US and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Belarus pending the release of all political prisoners.

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