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Belarusian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich attends a protest in Minsk last year.

MINSK -- Prominent Belarusian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich has been detained on his way to a rally meant to mock authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on the former Soviet republic's Independence Day.

Statkevich was detained immediately after leaving his home in Minsk on July 3.

Statkevich and his supporters had called on Belarusians to demonstrate in downtown Minsk on July 3, which is officially celebrated as Independence Day and the day of liberation of the city from the Nazis by Soviet troops in 1944.

They called the rally the Act of Liberation and Solidarity and quoted what they claimed were words spoken publicly by Lukashenka in 1995 about Adolf HItler's Germany.

They quoted Lukashenka as saying, "The German order was formed [over] centuries, and in Adolf Hitler's time its formation had reached its highest point and [represented] what we understand as a presidential republic and the president’s role in it."

At least 20 activists and people who were giving interviews to RFE/RL were detained by men in civilian clothes on or on their way to Independence Avenue in Minsk.

Statkevich ran against Lukashenka in the 2010 presidential election.

He was arrested after attending a large demonstration protesting the election results, and spent five years in prison after being convicted of organizing riots at a trial criticized by human rights groups and Western governments.

Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev is escorted into a courtroom in the city of Petrozavodsk on June 29.

Russian authorities have formally indicted historian Yury Dmitriyev on a charge of sexual assault against his adopted daughter following an earlier acquittal on child-pornography charges.

The Investigative Committee said on July 3 that Dmitriyev was charged with "violent acts of a sexual nature committed against a person under 14 years of age."

Dmitriyev was rearrested on June 27, less than two weeks after a court in the northwestern region of Karelia overturned a verdict that cleared the 62-year-old of child-pornography charges and sent the case for retrial.

He spent 13 months in custody before he was acquitted in early April in a trial he dismisses as politically motivated.

Dmitriyev is the chief of the Moscow-based Memorial human right center's branch in Karelia and a historian who has worked for decades to expose crimes committed in the region by the Soviet state under dictator Josef Stalin.

Prosecutors had charged the 62-year-old after the authorities found 49 naked photographs of his adopted daughter on his computer.

But Dmitriyev testified that the photos were taken because medical workers had asked him to monitor the health and development of the girl, who was malnourished and ailing when Dmitriyev and his wife took her in as a foster child.

His supporters said the case was brought against him because he exposed a side of history that complicates the Kremlin's glorification of the Soviet past.

Based on reporting by Rapsinews and Interfax

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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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