Two Illinois Democrats have urged the International Ice Hockey Federation to postpone its 2014 world championship tournament in Minsk, Belarus, because of human rights concerns in the eastern European country.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin and Rep. Mike Quigley, along with Peter Stastny, a National Hockey League Hall of Famer and member of the European Parliament, have asked federation President Rene Fasel to suspend the games until Belarus’ long-time ruler Alexander Lukashenko, releases all the country’s political prisoners — many whom were arrested during the country’s recent Dec. 19 presidential election.
“Quite simply, his regime should not be rewarded with the prestige associated with hosting the 2014 International Ice Hockey Championship while his citizens languish in jail for peacefully trying to exercise minimal political freedoms,” the letter said.
“Many such political prisoners are still in jail and face prison sentences as long as 15 years. That such barbaric behavior is still practiced in Europe is deeply disturbing.”
The lawmakers called Mr. Lukashenko a dictator and his regime a “totalitarian nightmare.”
Mr. Lukashenko was first elected president of Belarus — a part of the former Soviet Union — in 1994. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution last month condemning his December re-election to a fourth term after the vote widely was criticized as failing to meet minimal international election standards.
Mr. Durbin visited Minsk earlier this year and met with opposition leaders, human rights activists and families of jailed activists and candidates. He also called for the immediate release of those jailed since December’s elections.