Last night Belarusian opposition politician Alexander Kozulin was released from prison for three days to attend his wife's funeral. Irina Kozulina died at the weekend following a long battle with cancer. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement today (26 February) welcoming the decision of the Belarusian Government:
"It was with satisfaction that I learned of the Belarusian Government's decision to allow Mr Alexander Kozulin to spend three days on temporary release from prison. Mr Kozulin will thus be able to join his family to pay his last respects to his wife, who died at the weekend. Our thoughts and sympathy are with Mr Kozulin and his relatives in this difficult hour.
The Belarusian leadership's decision to grant this temporary release not only follows an imperative of humanity, but is also to be viewed in conjunction with the release of five political prisoners this year, as called for by the German Government among others. I hope that the Belarusian Government will unconditionally free Mr Kozulin, too, for once and all."
By releasing all political prisoners, Belarus would fulfil a key requirement for gradually reviving its relations with the European Union. Germany and its European partners have repeatedly expressed their desire for good and wide-ranging cooperation with Belarus. Such cooperation can however only succeed if based on European values, on democracy and the rule of law.