The Belarus government today released former Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau and his campaign manager Zmitser Bandarenka.
Reports say prison authorities freed the two high profile political prisoners on Saturday.
Sannikau and his former campaign aide, Dzmitry Bandarenka, were among the prominent opposition activists and politicians still jailed over the December 2010 presidential election that handed Lukashenka a fourth term.
The United States today welcomed the release of the two political prisoners, saying it represents a significant step.
Deputy Spokeperson Mark C. Toner also urged the Government of Belarus to immediately and unconditionally free all remaining political prisoners and ensure the full restoration of their civil and political rights.
He stresses that enhanced respect for democracy and human rights remains central to improving relations between the United States and Belarus.
In addition, the European leaders also welcomed this weekend’s release in Belarus of two high-profile political prisoners, saying the release is “a fundamental first step to pardon those who asked for it.
Reports say Sannikau was beaten and jailed over street protests that broke out within hours of voting on December 19, 2010. He was sentenced to five years in prison. He reportedly had spent recent months at a labor camp that he described as “torture.”
Sannikau was the founder of the Charter 97 group and leading proponent of the European Belarus civil initiative.
On December, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton issued joint statement on human rights issues in Belarus on the Anniversary of the December 19, 2010 Crackdown.
The United States and EU expressed concern credible reports of degrading and inhumane treatment of political prisoners in Belarus.
EU reported that over the past 12 months, the Belarusian authorities have imprisoned peaceful demonstrators, suppressed non-violent protests, and worked to silence independent voices.
One vital focus of U.S. assistance to Belarus is the development of a civil society and media freedom.
U.S. assistance to Belarus also supports the Belarusian people in achieving a government that respects their democratic rights and fundamental freedoms.
The U.S. assistance is targeting also on areas to promote the opening of space for the free expression of political views.
U.S. announced also an additional $4 million to be used in response to the Government of Belarus’ crackdown on civil society, independent media and the political opposition following the flawed December 2010 presidential election.