In connection with the release of the last two political prisoners in Belarus, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier today (20 August) issued the following statement in Berlin:
"I welcome the release ordered today of Andrei Kim and Syarhei Parsyukevich, the last two Belarusian political prisoners. With this decision the authorities in Minsk have taken an important step towards strengthening the rule of law in the country. The Federal Republic of Germany together with its European Union partners have long been pressing for such a step.
I hope the Belarusian authorities will now also ensure the general elections to be held on 28 September are free and fair and conducted in accordance with democratic standards. It is a hopeful sign that OSCE election observers have recently been able to start work in the country.
If these elections go well, the Belarusian authorities will have laid the basis for a shift in the European Union's policy towards the country."
The student Andrei Kim is involved in the "Young Front" (Malady Front), an Opposition youth organization, and Syarhei Parsyukevich is a businessman. They were arrested on 10 January 2008 at a demonstration protesting against new rules for the registration of small businesses. Both were put on trial and convicted of hooliganism and violence against the militia. On 22 April Kim was sentenced to eighteen months and on 23 April Parsyukevich to two and a half years in prison.