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Belarusian Blogger Activists Combing Video Evidence To Identify ' Provocateurs'

With hundreds of Belarusians still in jail after protests following a controversial presidential election, a Belarusian blogger has been poring through footage from election night in a bid to identify "provocateurs."

RFE/RL's Belarus Service spoke to Tatiana Yelavaya, an activist who blogs on the Live Journal platform under the name "zmagarka" (warrior). Yelavaya had been posting videos of the demonstrations on her blog when she was sent by an anonymous source what she says are recordings of secret-police radio communications from the night of violence, December 19.

She says the evidence, which can't be verified by RFE/RL, is proof that the attempted storming of the House of Government -- the building housing the parliament, government, and election commission -- was planned by government forces and carried out by provocateurs. Yelavaya and other activists are searching through photo and video footage to identify those individuals who perpetrated the violence and prove that they were colluding with official security forces in this effort. They then plan to submit a dossier to court.

After Iran's postelection crackdown in 2009, Green Movement activists did much the same, when they attempted to identity plainclothes militia members they said were involved in the violence. The benefits of digitization, however, go both ways. The Iranian authorities were quick to launch a website publishing photos of protesters and calling on the public to identify them.

In the future it's likely to get even easier with the introduction of sophisticated facial-recognition software. For instance offers facial-recognition software that can "scan your photos and search for faces that look like you and your friends in photos, so that we can help you tag, share, and find untagged photos of yourself and friends."

It wouldn't be too hard for states like Belarus to use such software for more sinister purposes, especially with all the homegrown hi-tech expertise they have. Or they could simply buy the technology from abroad.

It doesn't look like foreign companies would have particular qualms selling such technology to Belarus. In a case reminiscent of Nokia supplying the Iranian government with phone-tapping technology, the Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson has reportedly supplied Belarus with surveillance equipment.

-- Sergei Ablameiko/Luke Allnutt