Baltic ambassadors visit imprisoned Belarus opposition leader in hospital

  • 2005-04-27
  • From wire reports
RIGA - In a show of democratic camaraderie, two Baltic ambassadors visited an imprisoned Belarusian citizen and former diplomat in the hospital where the latter is recovering from a heart attack.

Latvian Ambassador Maira Mora and her Lithuanian counterpart, Jons Paslausks, paid a visit to political prisoner Mikhail Marinich, former ambassador to Latvia, in a Minsk hospital.

During their visit on April 25, the two diplomats ascertained that Marinich was satisfied with the quality of the health care being provided. Mora assured Marinich that Latvia was closely following his health condition, as well as the medical care provided. She emphasized that the country remembers his efforts to build friendly relations between Latvia and Belarus.

Both officials congratulated Marinich for his nomination as Person of the Year by Denmark's European Movement, and said that his case would be on the Council of Europe's agenda in late April. Mora also sent Marinich warm regards from his former colleagues in the Baltic state.

The ambassadors' gesture was one more show of support dissidents in the ex-Soviet country, after last weekend's NATO summit in Vilnius brought special attention to Belarusian opposition. (See story page 1) U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, one of the most distinguished guests at the convention of foreign ministers, met with opposition representatives and expressed her support. Rice's encouragement, however, immediately sparked retort from Minsk: "Belarus, and not Rice, will decide the future of the country."

Marinich expressed his gratitude to President Vaira Vike-Freiberga for a letter sent late last year in which the president expressed her solidarity with Marinich and his family. He also wished the best for everyone in Latvia, thanking them for their compassion and support.

This was the second time that EU member ambassadors have visited Marinich since his imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Mora and Paslausks stressed that all other European Union member states were keeping close watch on Marinich's prison and health conditions.

The Belarusian dissident is in sufficiently good shape and is preparing to appeal his case to the Belarus Supreme Court, Latvia's Foreign Ministry reported.

Recently, European Parliament President Josep Borell Fontelles, a Spanish representative of the Party of European Socialists, called on Belarus authorities to release Marinich.

Late last year a Minsk court found the opposition leader guilty of misappropriating office equipment and sentenced him to five years in a maximum-security prison. Marinich was acquitted on charges of illegal possession of arms and pleaded innocent, arguing that the case was a fabrication designed to keep him in isolation.