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Thousands freed in Belarusian amnesty

Jan. 14, 2013 at 9:09 AM   |   Comments

MINSK, Belarus, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The government of Belarus announced that more than 4,000 convicts were released from prison as part of an amnesty program enacted last year.

The Belarusian Interior Ministry said 4,226 convicts were released from prison and another 6,957 had their sentences reduced by one year. Around 7,500 were denied amnesty under a July measure meant to cover an estimated 18,737 prisoners, reports Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko called for a general amnesty July 3. He challenged claims the measure was meant to allay criticism from the European Union about the human rights situation in the former Soviet republic.

Several opponents of the Belarusian president were imprisoned following December 2010 elections. Belarusian rights organization Platform filed a complaint with the United Nations in September alleging some of his opponents were tortured while in custody.

Belarus had parliamentary elections in October. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election wasn't competitive and an OSCE observer said there was a general lack of political freedom in the country.

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