JEF observers arrested in Belarus
15 March 2006, for immediate distribution
For two days exit pollers coordinated by the Danish organisation SILBA and Danish Social democratic youth have been in Belarus preparing for the exit polling to take place during the presidential "elections" this week. All these activists are young people from a variety of youth organisations from all over Europe. Yesterday, a big group of these people have been arrested by Lukashenka’s state police and/or the "KGB".
Among the arrested is one of the co-organisers and former president of JEF-Denmark, Jens-Kristian Lytken (24). Jens-Kristian has yesterday been arrested by the KGB for 4.5 hours and been released on condition to leave the country within 48 hours. Other activists have been given 24 hours. The state police and the KGB have taken copies of personal data from laptops and memory sticks. While interrogating the activists the state television has been filming and we do not know as of yet, if the material has been screened on state television.
The 50+ exit pollers are spread all over Belarus and most of them have gone through similar interrogations and arrests by Lukashenka’s security services. They cannot move freely anymore.
Jens-Kristian Lytken explained:
"The opposition is completely sidelined by the security forces of the government. While it is freezing cold only outside meetings of the opposition are permitted – if any. Many opposition activists are closely followed by the KGB. Moreover, some election observers of the OSCE as well as the exit pollers of SILBA have been harassed and given clear signs to leave the country."
In light of these developments Jan Seifert, president of JEF-Europe, comments:
"Lukashenka’s methods of oppression are completely unacceptable for a value-based European society. Many of our activists – current and recent – have been fighting for democracy and against nationalist regimes (e.g. former Yugoslavia) and Soviet oppression but what we see these days in Belarus reminds us of the Soviet Union in its worst times."
Seifert goes on "We demand free access of exit pollers and election observers to all ballot stations and citizens of Belarus without secret service surveillance and harassment."
"It is now up to the European leaders to gear up their pressure on the Belarus regime but also on president Putin to put an end to any support of the Lukashenka regime. Moreover, also EU energy companies should reconsider their involvement in Russian energy suppliers who provide the central source of revenue for Lukashenka by providing oil and gas below market prices."
JEF activists will show their solidarity with the people in Belarus in public actions all over Europe tonight
For further information, please refer to our website www.jef-europe.net or call JEF’s Secretary General Joan Marc Simon under +32 495 501383 or in the office under +32 2 512 0053.
Jens-Kristian Lytken can be reached in Minsk until tomorrow afternoon via +45 28397901 (mobile). and join the demonstrations tomorrow.