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Belarus drops charges against Polish minority activist


TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — A prominent Polish minority activist has been released from custody in Belarus after authorities dropped criminal charges against her following a two-year criminal probe, officials said Tuesday.

The Belarusian Prosecutor General's office announced that the criminal investigation against Andzelika Borys, 49, has been closed, all charges against her have been dropped and she has been freed from house arrest.

Borys was arrested in March 2021 and after a year moved to house arrest due to deteriorating health. She was accused of inciting interethnic strife and condoning Nazism — charges that she rejected.

The prosecutors' move followed comment on Friday by Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who said that Borys has expressed an intention to stay in Belarus. “She is a Pole, but she's my Pole,” he said.

About 300,000 of Belarus’ 9.5 million people are ethnic Poles. Belarusian authorities shut the Union of Poles that Borys headed after accusing Poland of trying to foment an uprising against Lukashenko, who has led the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for nearly 29 years.

The Polish Foreign Ministry welcomed Borys’ exoneration as “the first good news coming from Minsk in a long time,” and voiced hope that it would herald a shift in Belarusian authorities' attitude toward Poles in Belarus and its readiness to engage in constructive dialogue.

In February, Andrzej Poczobut, 49, was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of harming Belarus’ national security and “inciting discord.” Poczobut, a journalist for the influential Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and a top figure in the Union of Poles in Belarus, has been behind bars since his detention in March 2021.

Poczobut reported extensively on the mass protests that swept Belarus after an August 2020 presidential vote handed Lukashenko a new term in office but was rejected by the opposition and the West as rigged.

Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina reaffirmed a call for Minsk to release Poczobut and drop all charges against him, adding that “this issue remains our highest priority.”