U.S. Reiterates Call For Release Of Political Prisoners In Belarus

The United States has condemned the continued detention of political prisoners in Belarus, saying that more than 100 are currently being held for participating in peaceful protests.

"These political prisoners have been subject to harsh and life-threatening detention conditions, including credible reports of torture," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on November 12.

The detainees "are among the thousands of individuals who have been subjected to unjust detentions since the start of the violent crackdown," Pompeo said.

The United States again called on the authorities "to immediately cease the escalating use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, release all political prisoners and other peaceful protesters who have been detained, and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Coordination Council and Belarusian civil society," Pompeo added.

The statement came the same day that a young protester died, reportedly beaten by security forces.

Raman Bandarenka, 31, had been abducted by unidentified people in Minsk on November 11. He was then taken to hospital in critical condition and was declared dead on November 12.

"My condolences to the family of Raman Bandarenka who was killed," opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya tweeted on November 12.

"He was brutally beaten by Lukashenka's thugs last night. He became a victim of the regime's inhumanity and terror for just being an active Belarusian thriving for freedom."

Several thousand people took part in the most recent large protest on November 8, the 13th consecutive Sunday of protests calling for the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and a new presidential election following a disputed vote three months ago.

The Vyasna human rights group said more than more than 1,000 demonstrators were detained across Belarus in the November 8 protests. Video and photographs posted on social media showed men, often in plainclothes, brutally wrestling demonstrators to the ground and forcing them into police transports.

Lukashenka has faced regular protests since the presidential election on August 9 in which he was declared the winner.

The opposition says the election was rigged and that the West has refused to accept it. Most of the country's opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country.

In response to the crackdown, the United States, Britain, and the European Union have imposed sanctions on dozens of Belarusian officials, including Lukashenka.

With reporting by Reuters