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Lukashenko releases 4 political prisoners, Belarusian opposition says

by Elsa Court July 3, 2024 5:01 PM  (Updated: ) 2 min read
Belarus opposition supporters hold a giant white-red-white flag used by the opposition, during a demonstration in central Minsk on Aug. 16, 2020. (Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images)
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Four political prisoners in Belarus who were being held by Alexander Lukashenko's regime have been released, the Viasna Center for Human Rights reported on July 3.

The news followed an announcement by Lukashenko on July 2 that some political prisoners with serious health issues would be released ahead of Belarus' Independence Day, which is marked on July 3.

Lukashenko's announcement concerned a number of political prisoners who have cancer, Belarusian independent news outlet Nasha Niva said. The released prisoners include two men and two women, according to Viasna.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya welcomed the release of the prisoners and said she was "glad to see these people free and reunited with their loved ones."

"But many are still on the humanitarian list. News of release is what we want to hear about every political prisoner," Tsikhanouskaya added.

Tsikhanouskaya and Viasna did not immediately provide details on who had been freed, but later reported that Ryhor Kastusiou, the leader of the pro-democracy Belarusian Popular Front party, was among those who had been released.

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67-year-old Kastusiou has been "diagnosed with cancer and urgently needs medical help," Tsikhanouskaya said. "Political prisoners have paid a heavy price with their health. Now, they need rehabilitation and support," Tsikhanouskaya added.

Nasha Niva reported that Kastusiou's health has seriously deteriorated while in prison.

Nasha Niva said there are at least seven political prisoners who are known to have cancer, and at least 32 prisoners have filed an emergency medical request, which indicates they need to be urgently released to receive medical care.

According to the Viasna Center for Human Rights, there are 1,408 people being held as political prisoners in Belarus. Most of these people were imprisoned following the pro-democracy protests in Belarus after the 2020 presidential elections.

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