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Tens of thousands of Belarusians have been detained since a disputed presidential election in August last year. (file photo)

Police in Belarus detained more than 160 people during demonstrations on January 31 calling for longtime strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka to step down.

Video showed police dressed in black grabbing protesters from the sidewalk and putting them in minibuses. Another video shows police chasing demonstrators across a courtyard.

Luzia Tschirky, a Swiss journalist, was among those arrested. She was released after several hours of detention when the Swiss Embassy intervened.

Belarusians have taken to the streets to protest against Lukahsenka since the nation held presidential elections on August 9 that they say were rigged in his favor.

As many as 100,000 people joined the weekly demonstrations last year in the biggest challenge to Lukashenka’s rule in 26 years.

He has managed to cling to power by unleashing a brutal police crackdown on his own citizens, including detaining tens of thousands.

Based on reporting by dpa and AP
Swiss journalist Luzia Tschirky (file photo)

The Vyasna human rights center in Belarus says police in Minsk have released a Swiss journalist from custody who was detained earlier on January 31 in the Belarusian capital.

The rights group said it received information from the Swiss Embassy in Minsk at about 5 p.m. local time that journalist Luzia Tschirky had been released from a police station.

Tschirky is a correspondent for the Swiss public broadcaster SRF who covers Russia, Belarus, and other former Soviet republics.

In a Twitter statement, SRF News quoted Tschirky as saying: “Masked men dragged me into a minibus” in central Minsk on the afternoon of January 31, taking her to a police station in the Belarusian capital where she was questioned.

Vyasna says authorities are still holding 28 people who were detained at anti-government protests.

Since August 9, Belarus has seen almost daily protests against the country's official presidential election tally.

Election officials declared Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the winner in a landslide with about 80 percent of the vote.

But opposition leaders and demonstrators say the results were rigged in favor of Lukashenka -- who has been in office since 1994.

With additional reporting by Interfax and TASS

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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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