Lithuania opens torture probe targeting Belarusian officials

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Lithuania’s prosecutor general on Wednesday launched a criminal probe against Belarusian regime officials over alleged torture of a pro-democracy activist in the neighbouring country.

EU member Lithuania has played a key role in rallying international support for protests against the disputed re-election of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

Prosecutor Evaldas Pasilis said he applied universal jurisdiction laws that allow the prosecution of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

“All of us, no matter our citizenship, have the same right to life and dignity,” Pasilis said in a statement.

The investigation was opened after Belarus citizen Maksim Kharoshyn filed a petition with Lithuanian prosecutors, claiming he had been tortured while in the custody of Belarusian law-enforcement.

No suspects were named in the Lithuanian probe so far.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya welcomed the move and urged other European countries to follow suit.

“We encourage all other countries to follow the initiative of the Lithuanian prosecutor and to start investigating the regime’s crimes against humanity. Not a single case should be forgotten and every case should be investigated,” she told AFP in a telephone interview.

Since the August vote, Belarus has been engulfed by the political crisis, with protesters taking to the streets and authorities cracking down on the opposition.

Tikhanovskaya, who claims to have won the presidential vote, and Kharoshyn are among hundreds of Belarusians that Lithuania has granted refuge in recent months.