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Belarus to free imprisoned American lawyer

Belarus to free imprisoned American lawyer

An ailing American lawyer who was imprisoned in Belarus last year on charges of using fake documents and attempted commercial espionage was pardoned on Tuesday by the president of the former Soviet country, an official said.
Emanuel Zeltser, a 55-year-old diabetic, was sentenced to three years in prison in August 2008. His supporters called the charges politically motivated.
In November, Zeltser was placed in a prison hospital after arriving at a penal colony in eastern Belarus, where he was denied medicine, according to lawyers.
President Alexander Lukashenko "today signed a decree pardoning Zeltser," Pavel Lyogkhy, a presidential spokesman, told The Associated Press. "The speed of his release depends on" prison officials, Lyogkhy said, without elaborating.
Belarus and its authoritarian leader are currently on a drive to court better political and economic ties with the West, and Washington had said Zeltser's release would help the process along.
A U.S. congressional delegation headed by Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland was told of the release announcement during a meeting Tuesday with Lukashenko. Cardin told reporters Lukashneko told him that Zeltser would be released later Tuesday.
Zeltser's lawyer, Dmitry Goryachko, said that he had informed his client about the decision during a visit Tuesday to the prison hospital, in the town of Mogilyov, 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of the capital, Minsk.
"Zeltser knows about the decision and is preparing for his release," Goryachko said by telephone from outside the prison. "But until he is released, he is afraid to celebrate."
Zeltser's health is "satisfactory," Goryachko said. "He is walking on his own."
Jonathan Moore, charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, welcomed the move. "The freeing of Zeltser is a very important signal," Moore told the AP.


Updated : 2021-03-09 18:17 GMT+08:00