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PACE President welcomes release of Belarusian opposition leader

April 16, 2012, 19:33 UTC+3

Jean-Claude Mignon welcomed the release of Belarusian opposition leader Andrei Sannikov and his former campaign aide Dmitry Bandarenko

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STRASBOURG, April 16 (Itar-Tass) —— Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) President Jean-Claude Mignon today welcomed the release of Belarusian opposition leader Andrei Sannikov and his former campaign aide Dmitry Bandarenko, while urging President Lukashenko “to release and fully rehabilitate all other remaining political prisoners”.

“At its January 2012 Session, our Assembly deplored that a number of individuals, including former presidential candidates, civil society activists and prominent human rights defenders, remain in prison on political grounds”, the president said.

In its Resolution 1857, the Assembly had noted that some of those who were sentenced to prison terms for their involvement in protests against the government had since been pardoned. “However, some prisoners have alleged that they were pressured into appealing for clemency and admitting their guilt in order to secure release. In many cases, the released prisoners claim that they were subjected to torture, given inadequate medical attention and denied proper access to legal representation”, Mignon added.

A thorough and credible investigation into these allegations of ill-treatment and torture at the time of arrest and in detention is indispensable”, PACE president concluded.

The Belarusian authorities released ex-presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov on Saturday, April 14.

He was arrested on December 19, 2010 and sentenced to five years in prison for participation in mass riots in Minsk.

Sannikov, 57, was found guilty of organising mass riots in Minsk on December 19, 2010 after presidential elections.

During court hearings, Sannikov said the trial was “conspicuously politically motivated” and refused to plead guilty.

“We think that the verdict is unlawful and unfounded. The fact of mass riots was not proved,” lawyer Marina Kovalevskaya said.

Having noted that the court failed to uphold some of the defence's pleas, she said this testified to “the one-sidedness of the trial”.

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