İrem UZUN -TDO- Belarus' authoritarian president on Saturday visited a prison to talk to opposition activists, who have been jailed for challenging his re-election that was widely seen as manipulated and triggered two months of protests. President Alexander Lukashenko spent more than four hours talking to his jailed political foes at the Minsk prison that belongs to Belarus' State Security Committee, alias KGB.
"The aim of the president is to hear everyone's opinion," Lukashenko's press service said, adding that the participants agreed to keep "secret" the content of the four-and-a-half-hour conversation. The state-run Belta news agency cited an official government photo showing Lukashenko sat around a table with 11 casually-dressed people. The picture shows opposition politician Viktor Babariko, who was barred from running in the election and was detained in July along with his son. Others include lawyer Liliya Vlasova, who is a member of the opposition's Coordination Council set up to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, and Vitali Shkliarov, a Belarusian-U.S. strategist who worked on U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and advised the Russian opposition. In a brief video excerpt, Lukashenko told prisoners "You can't rewrite the constitution on the street," referring to the protests.
The president's main rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is currently in exile in Lithuania, wrote on Twitter that Lukashenko had acknowledged the existence of political prisoners whom he used to call criminals. "You can't have dialogue in a prison cell,” she added.