300 Detained in Protests in Belarus

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(Newswire.net — December 7, 2020) —

Sunday saw thousands of people on the streets of Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Opposition leaders have been protesting the re-election of military veteran Alexander Lukashenko for nearly four months since the elections were held in August. Lukashenko has been in power for 26 years

While smaller groups would gather in the suburbs and courtyards, most of the protesters would converge in the center of Minsk in what have now become weekly protests.

The most recent protest dubbed “The March of Wisdom,” held on Sunday December 6, had police officers disperse crowds and block them from gathering in Yakub Kolas Square.

A day after the latest round of protests more than 300 people have been arrested or detained. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova announced that police have 344 people in custody. The official reason for their detention is breaking the law against public gatherings and demonstrations.

Recently the protests have become more decentralized in order to avoid bans on public gatherings, calling them a March of Neighbors. This makes the demonstrations significantly harder to disperse and the protesters more difficult to round up.

The opposition claims that the elections held on August 9 were won by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – who ran in place of her jailed husband, and they have since been demanding Lukashenko’s resignation. They ask for a re-election and the release of all political prisoners. Tikhanovskaya fled Belarus soon after the elections, seeking asylum in Lithuania.

“It is impossible to rule the country when the majority does not accept you. With protests we are showing that we are the majority,” explained one of the protesters.

Clashes also occurred in the September protests when 100 000 people took to the streets of Minsk. Official sources claim that there were only 10 detentions in September, claiming those were unlawful protests.  UN rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet on the other hand warns that the number of detainees since August is actually 27 000. “The penalties imposed on protestors appear to be growing more severe,” the High Commissioner observed.

Until recently most of those detained were issued fines, administrative charges or 15 day detentions. In recent weeks a growing number of detainees are being pursued with criminal charges, and there are rumors of ill treatment and torture. Since the end of October, up to 2000 complaints have been filed for torture and inhuman treatment of those in custody – claims the UN High Council report.