The EU strongly urges the Belarusian authorities to ensure a meaningful and competitive political contest. No potential candidate should be prevented from fulfilling the registration procedure due to politically motivated restrictive measures, the statement by the EU spokesperson on recent developments reads.
“The EU calls on Belarusian authorities to immediately release them (Viktor Babariko, one of the potential presidential candidates, and his son Eduard Babariko) from pre-trial detention and to guarantee full respect of the rule of law, including a fair and transparent investigation and the right to have access to a lawyer. Any investigation must be impartial and without political pressure.”
The EU representatives also remind the Belarusian authorities to respect fundamental freedoms and human rights, in line with the country’s international commitments.
“They must refrain from any restrictions of the rights of potential candidates, avoid any detentions of peaceful protesters, and immediately release all arbitrarily detained activists. Reported cases of ill-treatment of persons detained for their involvement in peaceful protests, including Pavel Severinets, are extremely worrying.”
The EU expects Belarus to officially invite the OSCE/ODIHR to monitor the elections as soon as possible.
“Safe, peaceful, free and fair elections will foster democratic development in Belarus, reinforce its sovereignty and independence, and pave the way for greater cooperation with the EU and economic prosperity for the Belarusian people,” the statement concludes.
The German Foreign Ministry also expressed their concern about the situation in Belarus and the arrest of Viktor Babariko in particular. German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christopher Burger made the agency’s position public at a briefing in Berlin.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s main political rival in presidential election Viktor Babariko and his son were detained.
According to the head of the State Control Committee (KGC), Ivan Tertel, Viktor Babariko was detained in connection with the fact that he was “a direct organiser, a leader of illegal activities”.
He was particularly accused of trying to influence witnesses, hiding previous crimes and siphoning $430 million out of Belarus in money-laundering schemes, including the one in Latvian bank ABVL.
Babariko’s lawyers said they were not allowed into the building where he was taken. Besides, law enforcement officials were conducting searches at Babariko’s houses. According to unofficial reports, Viktor and his son Eduard were both sent to the KGB pre-trial detention centre.
Babariko has yet to formally register for the presidential race. His campaign has collected 425,000 signatures, while a minimum of 100,000 is needed for the nomination. Recall that Babariko is an ex-head of Belgazprombank, whose offices were raided last Thursday in a tax evasion case.
About 20 bank employees were detained and the bank was taken into temporary administration.