Yesterday (16 August) the Belarusian opposition politician and former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin was released after spending more than two years in prison. Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a statement in Berlin today (17 August) welcoming his release:
"I welcome yesterday's decision by the Belarusian Government to finally release Alexander Kozulin from prison. I hope that Mr Kozulin has been freed permanently. That would be a long hoped-for humanitarian act which has been demanded frequently and which must be followed by other such steps.
The release of all political prisoners is a key requirement for gradually reviving relations with the European Union. Together with our European partners, we have repeatedly expressed our 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."
Alexander Kozulin, 53, stood against the Belarusian President Lukashenko at the presidential elections of 19 March 2006 as the candidate of the European Coalition "Free Belarus". On 13 July 2006 he was sentenced to five and a half years in a labour camp by a Minsk court on charges of hooliganism and incitement to mass disorder.