Hundreds of opposition demonstrators were grabbed by police during the violent dispersal of an anti-Lukashenka demonstration in Minsk on the night between December 19 and 20, according to a source with the police.
Human rights defenders estimated the number of arrested demonstrators at more than 200 people.
Seven of Alyaksandr Lukashenka`s rivals in the presidential election remained in police custody on the morning of December 20. These were Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, Andrey Sannikaw, Vital Rymashewski, Mikalay Statkevich,Ales Mikhalevich, Dzmitry Uss and Ryhor Kastusyow. Their whereabouts were not immediately known.
Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, who had been beaten unconscious in a police attack on him and a group of his supporters and rushed to the Minsk Emergency Hospital before the demonstration began, was driven away from the hospital by plainclothesmen.
"Seven men in civilian clothes burst into his ward, locked his wife in a neighboring room and, despite her cries, wrapped him up in a blanket and drove him away,"Yuliya Rymashewskaya, spokeswoman for the candidate, told BelaPAN.
Other arrested prominent figures included Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party; Mr. Sannikaw`s wife Iryna Khalip; Dzmitry Bandarenka, a coordinator of an opposition group called Khartyya97 (Charter`97); Natallya Radzina, the editor of the http://www.charter97.org news website; human rights defender Valyantsin Stefanovich; and Natallya Kalyada, director of Free Theater.
Appearing on television on Sunday night, Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich said that investigators would determine the responsibility of each of the arrested demonstrators for what he described as riots in Minsk.
Interior Minister Anatol Kulyashow, in an interview broadcast by Channel One, said that criminal proceedings had been instituted in connection with the demonstration under Article 293 of the Criminal Code, which penalizes the organization of mass riots. It carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
The minister claimed that more than 30 police officers had been injured during scuffles with the protesters and police cameras had been damaged.
The number of people hurt during the break-up of the protest was not immediately known.