President is ready to release political prisoners
On 3 June President Lukashenko held a meeting on the activities of the Belarusian courts of the first instance.
The Head of State initiates measures that will visually liberalize the Belarusian judiciary, making it a clear signal to the international community about potential renewal of the damaged relations. For instance, the aforementioned event implies the readiness of Minsk to release political prisoners in exchange for improving relations with the Western institutions and the IMF in particular.
During the meeting a number of statements were made, for instance, about overcoming the Soviet tradition of “prosecutive” nature of sentences, or about the possibility to review the decisions of the Supreme Court, which are final at the moment. Another liberal proposal concerned the introduction of jury trials.
Following the Presidential elections on 19 December 2010 the work of the law enforcement agencies and of the Belarusian judiciary in particular, was a subject to harsh criticism by the international community (they expressed concerns about the process of investigation and trials, sentences to demonstrators). It still is. Minsk had to start somewhere to renew the relationship and the judicial system appealed to the authorities as the safest area for liberal experiments. At least the judiciary is easier to reform compared with the KGB and MIA, or with the electoral system, where reforms are put on hold until the next election in 2012.
An indirect evidence of the willingness of Alexander Lukashenko to release political prisoners was his verbal approval of the sentences handed to post-election protestors. Therefore the President symbolically assumed the responsibility for sentences, alongside with the right to release prisoners early.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.