Zygimantas Pavilionis, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, says it is a revival of an initiative launched in the wake of mass protests in Belarus back in 2010.
"Each of the twelve MPs is personally taking care of one political prisoner," he told a news conference on Friday. "Yes, there are more of them; they say there are about a thousand; we know about 220. Yes, it's possible that other members of the Seimas will join."
One of the 12 MPs is Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, the speaker of the Seimas, who will try to help Ihar Losik, a 28-year-old Belarusian journalist and blogger and a consultant for RFE/RL who has been in prison for the sixth month now.
"We will maintain close contact with Losik's wife, Darya, and colleagues; we will help them to be heard outside of Belarus," the speaker wrote on Facebook.
Pavilionis will be "the patron" of Belarus' Christian democratic politician Paval Sieviaryniec.
"We aren't having much impact on the regime until it falls," the parliamentarian said. "It's more of an impact on the West. As to Paval Sieviaryniec, I'm going to rally all of Europe's Christian Democrats (to his support)."
MP Laima Liucija Andrikiene will be "the patron" of TUT.BY reporter Katsiaryna Barysevich; MP Dalia Asanaviciute of Belsat TV journalist Darya Chultsova; MP Audronius Azubalis of Press Club Belarus' founder Yuliya Slutskaya; MP Laurynas Kasciunas of blogger Eduard Palchys; MP Raimondas Lopata of architect Artsiom Takarchuk; MP Emanuelis Zingeris of former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich; MP Marius Matijosaitis of Ksenia Syramalot of the Belarusian Students' Association and the Viasna human rights center; MP Tomas Vytautas Raskevicius of Belarusian journalist and anarchist activist Mikalai Dziadok; MP Dovile Sakaliene of Maryia Kalesnikava, a member of Belarus' Coordination Council; and MP Ruta Miliute of human rights activist Marfa Rabkova.
Franak Viacorka, senior international affairs advisor to Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, says that Belarus' authorities are keeping political prisoners "under inhumane conditions" in an attempt to break their determination to resist the regime.
"Our history shows that people don't return to politics after many years in prison. And that's exactly what Alexander Lukashenko expects when he throws our young, brave journalists, activists and creative influencers into prison for many years," he told the news conference.
Viacorka said he hoped that the entire European Union and other Western countries would follow the lead of the Baltic states and would expand sanctions against Minsk.
Belarus has been facing protests since last August's presidential election when President Alexander Lukashenko, ruling the country since 1994, was declared the winner. The Minsk regime's is using force to suppress protests.
Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger to Lukashenko, took refuge in Lithuania soon after the election which Belarus' opposition and the West say was rigged.
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