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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Belarus releases Polish ex-envoy
Mariusz Maszkiewicz
Mariusz Maszkiewicz suffered heart problems during his detention
Authorities in Belarus have released a former Polish ambassador jailed for protesting against Alexander Lukashenko's re-election last month.

Mariusz Maszkiewicz was detained days after the 19 March polls, which were widely criticised as not free or fair.

The European Union is expected to impose a travel ban on 31 Belarus officials on Monday, including Mr Lukashenko, ministers and MPs.

Mr Lukashenko is to be sworn in for a third presidential term on Saturday.

The inauguration had been planned for last month, but was postponed for undisclosed reasons.

Belarus says no foreign heads of state have been asked to attend the ceremony and military parade in Minsk.

The presidential website says Mr Lukashenko has received congratulations from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Neighbouring Poland has been one of the more vocal opponents of Mr Lukashenko's re-election.

The OSCE, Europe's main election monitoring body, said the vote was "severely flawed", with harassment of opposition activists, biased media coverage and obstruction of independent monitors.

Discharged

Mr Maszkiewicz was among hundreds of opposition supporters detained during protests following the vote.

Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz had demanded Mr Maszkiewicz's release earlier this week, describing the detention as shameful.

The former ambassador to Belarus was sentenced to 15 days in jail, but was later taken to hospital with heart problems. He was discharged on Friday, the Polish embassy said.

Belarus opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich got a warm welcome from MEPs during a European tour this week.

He asked the European Parliament for tougher sanctions against Belarus officials and stronger support for students and the independent media.

The US is also planning to impose targeted travel restrictions and economic sanctions on Belarus.




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