WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (UPI) — Washington is deeply concerned by reports that a top Belarusian human rights activist was arrested by state authorities, the State Department said.
Belarus is facing mounting international criticism over its human rights record following a crackdown against opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko following last year’s election.
Belarusian authorities had charged Ales Bialatski with tax evasion, though German broadcaster Deutsche Welle said his arrest may have been related to his work as a human rights activist.
Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, and other European leaders last week issued statements condemning the arrest.
“Given the many worrying reports of harassment of human rights defenders in Belarus, we call on the authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Bialatski and all human rights defenders in Belarus,” a statement from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights added.
Washington described activists like Bialatski as vital to a vibrant democratic society in Belarus and expressed deep concern over the repression of basic human rights in the country.
“The United States calls on the government of Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release Bialatski and the more than 40 political prisoners in Belarus today,” said Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department.