Belarus: Jailed scientist is freed after Amnesty campaign supported by The Cure
Yury Bandazhevskyâ€™s case had been taken up by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations as well as by English band The Cure and Russian rock band, Leningrad.
Robert Smith, lead singer of The Cure, said:
"The release of Professor Yury Bandazhevsky is welcome news, and another great example of how we can all make a difference if we try - well done Amnesty: the fight goes on."
Speaking to Amnesty International, Yury Bandazhevsky said:
"I would like to send a huge thank you to all Amnesty International members across the world whose support I could feel. The work of Amnesty International is very useful."
He added that he is now spending his time getting used to his freedom and looking into work possibilities. He was released suddenly under a recent amnesty declared by President Lukashenka on 5 May, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Amnesty International Media Director Mike Blakemore said:
"Weâ€™re delighted that Professor Bandazhevsky has finally been freed. Itâ€™s a testament to the dedication of individual Amnesty members across the world who have campaigned tirelessly for justice in this case.
"We would also like to thank The Cure and their fans who attended the USA Curiosa Festival Tour last summer, for supporting this case by signing our petition. They really have made a difference in helping to secure Yuryâ€™s freedom.
"We wonâ€™t stop there, though. Professor Bandazhevsky is still subject to restrictions that are entirely unacceptable and we will keep up the pressure on the Belarusian authorities until they are lifted."
However, Amnesty International is concerned that Yury Bandazhevsky will remain under the authoritiesâ€™ control for the next five years, subjected to various conditions which include having to report regularly to the police, and being prohibited from assuming any managerial or political functions.
Amnesty International will continue to campaign for the conditions to be lifted. Background
On 18 June 2001, Professor Yury Bandazhevsky was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment after being convicted of taking bribes from students seeking admission to the Gomel Medical Institute, where he was a rector. He has always maintained his innocence.
Both domestic and international trial observers believed the trial to be unfair and Amnesty International was concerned that he did not have access to a lawyer during his pre-trial detention. Amnesty International adopted him as a Prisoner of Conscience, believing that he was convicted on trumped up charges because of his open criticism of the authoritiesâ€™ response to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
A recent (April 2005) report by Amnesty International revealed that the Belarusian authorities are increasingly employing harassment, intimidation, excessive force, mass detentions and long-term imprisonment as methods to quash any civil or political dissent.
The report, Belarus: Suppressing the last voices of peaceful dissent says that vocal critics of the Belarusian regime risk long-term imprisonment after unfair trials due to a flawed criminal justice system. The lack of an independent prosecution authority and judiciary has contributed to the imprisonment and subsequent convictions of high profile political opponents of President Lukashenka.