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Minister Byrne Statement on Belarusian Political Prisoners

On this day, two years ago, Serhei Tikhanovsky was arrested by the Belarusian authorities. Two days earlier, he had announced his candidacy for the presidency of Belarus: a direct challenge to the generation-long rule of Alexander Lukashenko.
Mr Tikhanovsky has languished in a jail cell since 29 May, 2020. He has been given an 18-year prison term and, if he serves it, will be 60 years old by the time he is released. This politicised sentence is an appalling violation of human rights, not to mention fundamental human decency.
I deeply admire Mr Tikhanovsky’s courage of conviction, his willingness to speak truth to power, and his determination to forge a better future for the Belarusian people. In these qualities, Lukashenko saw only the threat posed to his own leadership. 
Under the rule of Lukashenko, we have seen the use of state violence against peaceful protesters, indiscriminate detentions, and curtailments on the freedom of assembly and media freedoms. Ireland continues to unreservedly condemn these violations; we call for their immediate cessation.
Serhei Tikhanovsky is just one of 1,204 political prisoners in Belarus. 
The Belarusian authorities are persecuting people simply because they oppose Alexander Lukashenko. The regime is imprisoning its citizens in horrific conditions, subjecting them to ill-treatment and torture and condemning them to long prison sentences through politicised trials conducted behind closed doors.
Ireland has repeatedly called for all political prisoners arbitrarily detained in Belarus to be immediately and unconditionally released. Belarus must adhere to its international commitments and obligations.
Mr Tikhanovsky’s wife, Sviatlana Tsikhanovskaya, has carried on his work while he is imprisoned. I have met her on multiple occasions and have been deeply impressed by her work to build support for a democratic Belarus despite the personal tragedy inflicted on her family.
I encourage all Irish people and democratically-elected representatives of Ireland to support the political prisoners of Belarus and the cause they support: a democratic, just and free Belarus.
Press Office
29th May 2022

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