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300 Flash-Mob Protesters Arrested In Minsk
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MINSK -- Belarus police have released most of the 200 people detained late on June 22 at a rally against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the capital Minsk.

Riot police had earlier rounded up scores of people as about 1,000 turned out for the rally in response to opposition calls on the Internet.

RFE/RL correspondent Aleh Hruzdzilovich was among those arrested, but he was subsequentlz.

He claims he was detained despite identifying himself as a journalist and that the police were acting "very brutally," as if trying to intimidate the protesters.

"I am still in the police van. Riot cops continue to bring other detained protesters into the van, brutally hitting some on their arms and legs, throwing them on the floor, cursing as they do so," Hruzdzilovich told us by mobile phone at the time.

"No one paid any attention to the fact that I'm a journalist. I was one of the first to be detained," Hruzdzilovich continued. "The commanding officer himself tore away my camera, broke my microphone, and then ordered other cops to take me in. When I resisted, four cops took me by my arms and legs and dragged me away into the van. I kept screaming, 'I'm a journalist! Help!' But that had no affect on them. I'm OK, but I spent a lot of time lying on the floor of this van, under the heels of the cops. They were very brutal."

Meanwhile, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the Belarusian ambassador to Stockholm would be summoned to the Foreign Ministry after a Swedish diplomat was briefly manhandled by police during the Minsk rally.

Protest calls on social-networking sites have multiplied in recent weeks as a severe currency crisis has brought economic hardship.

It was the fourth consecutive Wednesday that protests were organized via the Internet.

Police sealed off entry to Minsk's October Square near the main presidential headquarters, as they did a week ago.

When up to 1,000 people gathered on the main thoroughfare, Independence Prospect, squads of special forces moved in and hustled people into police buses.

Responding to an opposition Internet call, dozens of cars had joined the protest, driving slowly down the main thoroughfare and sounding their car horns.

There were similar protests in more than 30 other cities.

with agency reports
Iranian sports photographer Maryam Majd has not been heard from since June 17.
A female sports photojournalist who had campaigned for Iranian women to be allowed to attend men's soccer games is missing amid reports she has been taken into custody in Tehran, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Maryam Majd, 24, was supposed to go to Duesseldorf on June 17 to prepare for the women's soccer World Cup in Germany and to work on a photo project with Petra Landers, a former German soccer player.

But in a letter subsequently sent to the German Foreign Ministry and the Iranian Embassy in Berlin, Landers says Majd never arrived.

Landers said Majd called her on June 17 saying she was about to get on the flight, but the airline has since confirmed she never boarded.

Meanwhile, an Iran-based source close to Majd told Radio Farda on June 21 that "four men, most likely from the Intelligence Ministry, went to Majd's father's house on June 16 and arrested her after searching her room."

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that her family said the men also took some of Majd's personal belongings with them. Her current whereabouts are unknown.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said Majd's family has so far refrained from talking to the media about their daughter's situation.

Majd is a member of a campaign that supports Iranian women being allowed to attend men's soccer matches, which is currently forbidden in Iran.

She has worked with the banned magazine "Zanan" ("Women), the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), and the sports daily "Tamasha."

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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