Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Poland and Belarus – still Poles apart

The Belarusian president continues his harassment of Poles and journalists

The former head of the Union of Poles in Belarus, Tadeusz Gawin, has received a second, consecutive two-week jail sentence.

The current President of the Union of Poles, Agelica Borys, says she has now been called in to be interrogated by Lukashenko’s goons 41 times now.

Last week, another activist from the Polish minority in that very odd country, Weslaw Kewliak, received a similar sentence for meeting a leading Polish politician in Grodno, western Belarus, close to the Polish border.

What’s their crimes? Gawin is charged with beating up a cellmate, a charge he denies. Kewliak has been charged with trying to destabilize the Belarusian state.

Poland as a nation is being accused of trying to whip up revolution, in an attempt to topple Europe’s weirdest head of state – who Condaleeza Rice has called ‘Europe’s last dictator’ - Alexander Lukashenko.

Both countries have been expelling each other’s diplomats for a few weeks now in a row that will only get worse, before it gets any better.

In another development, the Belarusian government has closed down another independent newspaper, the Dan. In a statement, the authorities said the paper, “interrupted its commercial activities for six months and failed to explain the fact to tax officials.” The director of Danpress, Nikolai Markevich, said that this was complete bull: it was Lekashenko’s toady judges who forced the company to stop trading by stripping it of a legal address, which meant that it had to publish from Russia. Dan regularly publishes articles critical of Lukashenko.

Over the last two years the Belarusian authorities have closed over 20 independent newspapers.

Lukashenko – strangely for man who would not look out of place in a Keystone Cops movie - obviously has little sense of humour. Last week, Paval Marozau, one of the founders of a cartoon series which lampoons Lukashenko for his Stalinist style censorship and megalomania, said that security agents had questioned him and two others, accusing them of insulting the honor of the Belarusian president. Consequently, the Belarusian state is charging the artists with libel.

Give him the peace prize!
But Lukashenko is a fighter for human rights! No, really.

He was traveling through Minsk, the capital of his small little empire, last year when he noticed that there were too many models staring out of billboards that did not look like Belarussians. So he had the wizard wheeze of creating a law that compels advertisers to only use Belarusian models in their ads. This on the grounds that the law will create more work for them at home and stop them going abroad for work, where they could be used as sex slaves and be trafficked.

And the OSCE, EU, US - and, who knows, even Robert Mugabe - all agree that the president of Belarus has no respect for human rights!

The beatroot thinks that this man is not the last dictator of Europe. He’s more like Europe’s next Nelson Mandela!

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