The United States and the European Union say they are reviewing their relations with Belarus after police in Minsk cracked down on mass opposition protests against the weekend vote that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says he won in a landslide.
In their joint statement
, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton also called on Belarusian authorities to release the more than 600 demonstrators arrested during the December 19 protest.
They say that "the elections and their aftermath represent an unfortunate step backwards in the development of democratic governance and respect for human rights in Belarus," adding in a line reminiscent of a statement
by the head of an OSCE/ODIHR short-term observer mission for the vote, "The people of Belarus deserve better."
Five former presidential candidates detained during the postelection protests, along with 14 other opposition activists, are facing possible charges of "organizing mass disorder," according to RFE/RL's Belarus Service, which has published a complete list of the 19 suspects
All of the suspects are in the custody of the country's notorious KGB and investigations are continuing, according to Minsk police.
They could reportedly face up to 15 years in prison.
The detained candidates include poet Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu, who was beaten unconscious during the protest and subsequently snatched from his hospital bed by men in plainclothes. Lawyers have reportedly been denied access to Nyaklyaeu.
Lawyers for two other jailed candidates, Andrey Sannikau and Vitaly Rymashevsky, said their clients had been viciously beaten in detention.
Authorities have since clamped down hard on expressions of public dissatisfaction, including breaking up a would-be protest one day after the vote.
Some people have been holding candlelight vigils
and visiting the Minsk detention facility in an effort to get news of the detainees' condition.compiled from RFE/RL and agency reports