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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Minsk Refuses To Ease Stance On Reporter

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Belarus' authoritarian president refused Tuesday to soften his stance toward a jailed journalist for ORT television, accusing the station of a "political act" for which it has not apologized.

President Alexander Lukashenko reiterated that Belarussian courts will decide the fate of ORT reporter Pavel Sheremet, whose arrest and jailing since mid-July have strained relations between Belarus and Russia.

But Lukashenko hinted at a possible resolution of the case after a legal ruling.

"I have the right to amnesty a person after he has been sentenced," he said at a news conference during an official visit to Kazakhstan. "Neither the Russian president nor the president of Belarus has a right to free him from custody while he is awaiting trial."

Sheremet and his colleague, both Belarussian citizens working for ORT, were arrested July 22 and accused of illegally crossing the border with Lithuania while reporting on the lack of controls along the frontier.

Authorities refuse to let Sheremet go, saying he was stripped of his press credentials before he was arrested.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who met with Lukashenko on Tuesday, said he believes every independent state has a right to compel its citizens to abide by the laws of the country and not to violate its borders.

Kazakhstan and Belarus signed six agreements, including a joint Kazakh-Belarussian declaration and an agreement on free trade.