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Polish Reporter Arrested in Belarus for Defaming President

  • VOA News

Andrzej Poczobut, a correspondent for one of Poland's major newspapers, Gazeta Wyborcza, with his wife Oksana in front of the court building where he was on trial in the town of Grodno, Belarus, July 5, 2011

Andrzej Poczobut, a correspondent for one of Poland's major newspapers, Gazeta Wyborcza, with his wife Oksana in front of the court building where he was on trial in the town of Grodno, Belarus, July 5, 2011

A reporter working for a Polish daily newspaper has been accused of defaming hardline Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and has been arrested.

Warsaw has demanded the "immediate release of Andrzej Poczobut", a journalist for Poland's leading liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily, according to a Friday foreign ministry statement. Poland's Foreign Ministry summoned the Belarus ambassador over the arrest.

The ministry also warned the incident provoked the kind of "self-isolation which is making relations between Belarus authorities and the European Union more and more difficult and risks greater sanctions" against Minsk.

Andrzej Poczobut's arrest Thursday in the Belarussian city of Grodno near the Polish border came a year after he was handed a suspended sentence for articles written for Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza - one of the country's most widely-read publications.

The Belarus Association of Journalists said security officers detained Poczobut in his apartment for a "repeat offense" of his earlier defamation charge.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk told journalists his counterparts from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia voiced support for Warsaw's position on the arrest on Friday.

Tusk also said he would raise the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later the same day during a meeting on the margins of Friday's Euro 2012 football face off between Germany and Greece.
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