Updated at 17:18,18-06-2021

Ethnic Poles Freed From Belarus Prison Are In Poland, Warsaw Says

RFE/RL with reporting by AP

Ethnic Poles Freed From Belarus Prison Are In Poland, Warsaw Says
Irena Biernacka was arrested in March and is now reportedly free in Poland
Three members of the ethnic Polish minority in Belarus who had been jailed for their political activism are now free and in Poland, authorities in Warsaw said on June 2.

The activists -- identified as Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska, and Anna Paniszewa -- were arrested in March as part of the Belarusian authorities’ crackdown on ethnic Poles who opposed the authoritarian regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “as a result of efforts by Polish diplomatic and consular services,” the activists arrived in Poland on May 25.

They were safe and being given “the necessary support and care,” the ministry said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz told reporters that “all Poles abroad who are subjected to repression will always find support and shelter” in Poland.

Poland “expects the freeing of all political prisoners in Belarus,” he added.

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, had appealed for the release of Biernacka, Tiszkowska, and Paniszewa, who were reportedly facing up to 12 years in prison in Belarus.

Two other activists from the Polish community in Belarus -- Andzelika Borys and Andrzej Poczobut -- remain imprisoned in the country.

Belarus has been in political turmoil since Lukashenka claimed victory in an August 2020 presidential election, which the opposition claimed was rigged in his favor.

The EU, United States, and other countries have imposed sanctions against the regime of Lukashenka, who has led a violent crackdown on dissent since mass protests broke out in the country over the disputed results of the election.