May 16, 2008

Don’t Think We Forgot You, Belarus

Life has been rolling merrily forward for El Presidente Lukashenko.

Back in March, Minsk recalled its ambassador from the US -- and “strongly suggested” Washington do the same. The State Department just rolled its eyes.

All of this comes after Lukashenko briefly grabbed headlines for releasing high-profile political prisoner Alexander Kozulin upon his wife's death. Kozulin was promptly re-imprisoned after the funeral.

His crime? Running for president, of course.

Meanwhile, the US announced new sanctions against three subsidiaries of state-owned Belneftekhim, just as Russia says it will avoid Belarus as a transit country for a new European pipeline project.

Back in the US, a federal appeals court will allow a gay Belarusian businessman to appeal his expulsion back to Planet Lukashenko on the grounds that it could violate the International Convention Against Torture (CAT).

It seems that, back in 1996, said gay Belarusian overstayed his tourist visa then requested asylum for fear of abuse as a homosexual. The US Board of Immigration Appeals denied the asylum claim but the 3rd Circuit Court figures he can at least try again under international anti-torture laws.

By the way, gay-rights groups note the successful completion of a recent Gay Pride Parade in Minsk since the event was free of violence or arrests. Apparently, the “Rainbow Flag” flew over Minsk for the first time.

Hell, civil society is civil society. Nobody bowls alone -- even in Belarus.

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