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Belarusian Review

Media Watch

Belarusian Leader Pardons American Lawyer

MOSCOW -- The Belarusian president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, on Tuesday pardoned an American lawyer at the center of a 16-month dispute between Belarus and the United States, in a push to fully restore relations between the two countries. During a meeting with members of the United States Congress, Mr. Lukashenko agreed to free Emanuel E. Zeltser, who was serving a three-year sentence for industrial espionage and forgery. American diplomats protested Mr. Zeltser’s mysterious arrest and closed trial, and they pressed for his release on humanitarian grounds, saying he had fallen gravely ill in prison.

… Lukashenko cast the pardon as a conciliatory gesture, and he appealed to the United States delegation to respond by lifting three-year-old economic sanctions against Belarus. Mr. Lukashenko ‘’could not have been more accommodating’’ toward his American visitors, something that has not been true in the past, said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, a member of the delegation. Senator Cardin said the United States would lift the sanctions when Belarus showed progress in political reforms and human rights. The decision brings to an end a bizarre legal case. Mr. Zeltzer and his personal assistant, VladlenaFunk, were arrested at the Minsk airport on an airplane belonging to a Russian oligarch, Boris A. Berezovsky. Mr. Berezovsky has accused Mr. Zeltser of using a forged will to steal the assets of his former partner, but he said he had no involvement in the arrest.

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 21, No. 3
Copyright 2009 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.
Source: Excerpts from an article in The New York Times, July 1, 2009

Ellen Barry

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