Javier SOLANA, EU High Representative for the CFSP, condemns the sentencing of prominent Belarusian opposition leaders

Javier SOLANA, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), made the following statement today concerning the sentence handed down yesterday by the Minsk Central District Court against Mikola Statkevich, Chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party and Pavel Sevyarinets, leader of the youth wing of the Belarusian Popular Front.

The two men were condemned to serve three years of correctional labour for organising protest rallies last autumn against the irregular conduct of the October 2004 parliamentary election and referendum on the extension of the presidential term.1 "I strongly condemn the sentencing of Mr. Statkevich and Mr. Severinets to three years correctional labour for a rally deemed by Belarusian authorities as a "violation of public order".

Even by the standards of Belarus, this is an excessive penalty for organising what has been confirmed by the OSCE and others, as non-violent democratic activity.

I would like to recall the serious concern expressed by the international community over irregularities surrounding last year's parliamentary elections and referendum on the presidential term."