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Belarusian police disperse a group of protesters holding a picket in central Minsk on December 20, one day after the disputed vote.
WASHINGTON -- The Belarusian government's crackdown on dissenters in the aftermath of December's disputed presidential election will feature in next week's Community of Democracies meeting in the Lithuanian capital.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner announced that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would participate in the meeting.

He said Belarus will be high on the agenda.

"The environment [in Belarus] is terrible," Posner said. "The government has cracked down not only on the political opposition but [on] civil society and a range of others. So we're deeply concerned about it, we're going to continue to press, we can't do it by ourselves and we need out European partners. We will have this very much on the agenda in Lithuania."

Posner also said that the United States and Russia "don't see eye-to-eye" on the crackdown under Belarusian President Alyasandr Lukashenka, meaning the West must ramp up its own pressure on Minsk.

The Vilnius gathering runs from June 28-July 1 and will also host a "tech camp" to train civil-society activists, mostly from Belarus.

Moldova and emerging democracies in North Africa will also feature in the meeting's discussions.

Founded in 2000, the Community of Democracies brings together government officials and civil society leaders with the goal of strengthening democratic values around the world.
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

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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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