Arrests fail to deter protesters

Posted in Other | 27-Mar-06 | Author: Nick Walsh| Source: Guardian (UK)

An arrested Belarus opposition supporter shows a victory sign from a window of a detention center in Minsk.
A Belarus opposition supporter shows a victory sign from a jail window in the capital Minsk after hundreds were arrested in a violent crackdown at the weekend. Those held include Alexander Kozulin, one of two opposition leaders who ran against the authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, in last weekend's discredited election, condemned by international observers.

The arrest of Mr Kozulin, who has reportedly been jailed with no access to doctors or lawyers. has been condemned by the EU and the US. He was detained on Saturday as he led hundreds of protesters in a march towards a police station where dozens of their colleagues were being held.

His wife, Irina, said yesterday: "We've found him in an isolation cell in Zhodina [about 25 miles from Minsk]. They say he is healthy, but my husband would never complain, and they have denied him access to doctors and lawyers." She said he faced charges of "hooliganism" and if convicted "could get anything from a fine to seven years in jail".

An EU statement said: "The EU presidency is appalled by the violence used against demonstrators by the Belarussian authorities. It expresses serious concern about the arrest of demonstrators and members of the democratic opposition and demands their release." The US state department also demanded their release. But the authorities in Minsk derided the western response as "bordering on anti-Belarusian hysteria".

On Friday riot police broke up a tent encampment in a central square, arresting 200 people who had for four nights been protesting against the result of the poll. Protesters regrouped on Saturday, but were violently dispersed by police.