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Poland Dismisses 2 Prosecutors for Exposing Belarus Activist

Ales Belyatsky, head of the Vyasna human rights center, in Minsk, Belarus, October 11, 2007 (file photo)

Ales Belyatsky, head of the Vyasna human rights center, in Minsk, Belarus, October 11, 2007 (file photo)

Poland has dismissed two prosecutors who played a role in giving Belarus financial data about leading human rights activist Ales Belyatsky - information which led to his arrest.

Earlier this month, financial police in Minsk arrested Belyatsky and charged him with tax evasion. The move came after Polish prosecutors shared the details of a bank account he had in Poland to finance the human rights group, Vyasna, which he founded.

Polish Prosecutor General Andrzej Seremet said Tuesday the two prosecutors provided the information despite recommendations from the Foreign Ministry on how to handle such cases.
The incident comes as an embarrassment for Poland, which has made supporting the pro-democracy movement in Belarus a key foreign policy priority. Poland's foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, publicly apologized on Friday and said Belarus had taken advantage of international procedures aimed at fighting crime and terrorism when it requested information about Belyatsky's bank account.

The rights group Vyasna denounced the case against Belyatsky as politically motivated, saying the charges against him are "punishment and retribution" for his long-running work defending human rights.

Belyatsky's arrest has drawn international criticism of the Belarus government's continued clampdown on the opposition and civil society.

Earlier this month, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe condemned the arrest, calling it the "latest example of persecution" in Belarus. In June, the OSCE issued a special report accusing President Viktor Lukashenko's government of systematically using fear, harassment, torture and blackmail to clamp down on its citizens.

U.S. President Barack Obama also has criticized the repression in Belarus, saying Lukashenko has shown a total disregard for democratic values, the rule of law and his own people.

The United States and the European Union have imposed numerous sanctions against his government.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.