Belarus expelled lecturer for 'leading students to West'

October 22, 2004

Britain is pressing the Belarus Government for an explanation for the expulsion of a Kingston University lecturer in August. Officials said no reason had yet been given for ordering Alan Flowers out of the country.

But a pro-democracy student whose activities have attracted the attentions of the Belarusian authorities has supplied an unofficial explanation. He said that a KGB official told him Dr Flowers had been banned for "interference in the political life of Belarus under the cover of academic objectives".

Dr Flowers maintained he was never involved in anything that could be termed "politics" in the West although he fostered debate among Belarusian students and helped them to participate at a European level.

To the Belarusian authorities, such activities are suspect. University officials are warning their students accordingly. Some have been forbidden to act as interpreters for foreign visitors. Others have been questioned by their deans about the content of emails from friends abroad.

Last month, Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, explained to students the reasons for the closure of the independent European Humanities University in Minsk. He said that EHU had sought to train an elite who would in due time "lead Belarus to the West".

Students claim they were threatened with the loss of their grants if they failed to support Mr Lukashenko in this week's Parliamentary elections and referendum. Some report being told by university officials that any "incorrect" papers would simply be "spoiled" by the tellers.

Dr Flowers, who was told not to return for five years, was researching the distribution of fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear explosion, and had been instrumental in the development of the Belarusian State University Business School.

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