280 detained in protests across Belarus
At least 280 people were detained by the police yesterday evening after hundreds demonstrated against the Central Election Commission’s decision to disqualify two of the incumbent Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s key rivals in the upcoming presidential election.
Riot police and plainclothed policemen used excessive violence and truncheons to disperse crowds of predominantly young demonstrators chanting “Disgrace!” and applauding to protest yesterday’s decision to deny registration to presidential nominees Valery Tsapkala and Viktar Babaryka. The latter is in pre-trial detention on politically motivated charges.
A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said 250 protesters were arrested across Belarus, with at least 230 people detained in Minsk and several dozens more in Homieĺ, Pružany, Brest and Babrujsk.
Several reporters were detained too, including journalists who were livestreaming the protests for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarus service, tut.by news site, Belsat TV and a BBC cameraman.
The journalists and several dozen protesters were later released. Some of them faced charges of illegal protesting and resisting arrest.
Numerous trials will be held today to hear the charges.
Following the protests, the Investigative Committee said it opened a criminal case to investigate “group actions that grossly breached public order” (Art. 342 of the Criminal Code). The charge carries a range of penalties, including up to 2 years in prison. It is not yet known how many people were held in the case.