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Over 1,000 People Detained In Latest Crackdown On Protests In Belarus

Riot police detain protesters carrying the red-and-white flag of the Belarusian opposition on November 8 in Minsk.
Riot police detain protesters carrying the red-and-white flag of the Belarusian opposition on November 8 in Minsk.

MINSK -- More than 1,000 anti-government demonstrators were detained across Belarus on the 13th consecutive Sunday of protests calling for the resignation of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and a new presidential election following a disputed vote three months ago.

The Vyasna human rights group said a total of 1,024 people were detained by security forces on November 8, with video and photographs on social media showing men, often in plainclothes, brutally wrestling demonstrators to the ground and forcing them into police transport.

Most of the arrests took place in the capital, Minsk, where several thousand participants in a so-called March Of Democracy waved the red-and-white flags and umbrellas that have become the symbol of the opposition.

Crackdown On Belarusian Protests Continues
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Security forces prevented protesters from gathering near city hall, blocking several streets and cordoning off areas in the center of the city.

Access to the Internet was restricted in Minsk since the morning, and several subway stations in the city center closed an hour before the rally, citing "passenger safety."

Protest rallies and detentions were also reported in Homel, Vitebsk, Zhlobin, and other cities.

At least six of those listed as detained were journalists.

Vyasna said some of the detainees were later released.

Doctors Detained In Minsk To Prevent Protest Rally
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Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, has faced almost daily protests since the August 9 presidential election that the opposition says was rigged and the West has refused to accept.

Thousands of people have been arrested since authorities declared Lukashenka the landslide winner of the vote. Most of the country's opposition leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country.

In response to the “violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification” of the presidential vote, the European Union has imposed visa bans and asset freezes on 55 Belarusian high-raking officials, including Lukashenka.

Last week, an independent report found “massive and systematic” human rights violations in Belarus before and in the wake of the presidential vote, including election fraud and excessive police violence and systematic torture, as well as widespread arrests of peaceful protesters.

The report, prepared by an independent expert under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), called for a new election, the immediate release of all political prisoners, and the establishment of an independent, international investigation into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

“It’s frankly very shocking that this kind of behavior would happen in a country on the European continent in the 21st century,” James Gilmore, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, told a press briefing on November 6, citing “credible reports of torture, arbitrary detention on a mass scale, [and] expansive restrictions on the rights of peaceful assembly and freedoms of expression and association.”

“In fact, the report is very detailed about the threats against people, women being threatened with rape, threatened -- the family members being threatened that their children would be taken away, physical abuse, attacks on people, people putting -- throwing people into prison in inhumane conditions, all for the purpose of trying to discourage the development of legitimate democracy in Belarus at this point,” Gilmore said.