About 30 people were arrested in a police crackdown on a demonstration staged in Minsk`s downtown Kastrychnitskaya Square on September 16 to mark the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of opposition politician Viktar Hanchar and businessman Anatol Krasowski.
At 6 p.m., a few dozen people formed a line along Independence Avenue, displaying images of the missing men and a sign that read, "We Remember."
Almost immediately, several dozen riot police officers ranged themselves between the demonstrators and the roadway. A police official began warning the crowd through a megaphone that the demonstration was unauthorized. A few minutes later, several police buses arrived at the scene and almost all the demonstrators were bundled into them and driven to the Tsentralny district police department.
Among those arrested were prominent opposition activists Mikalay Statkevich, Syarhey Skrabets and Yawhen Afnahel.
Police used force against journalists who were taking pictures and using video cameras.
On September 15, Anatol Lyabedzka, chairman of the United Civic Party, called on the police and the Committee for State Security (KGB) not to interfere with demonstrations to be staged in Belarus the following day. In his appeal to Interior Minister Anatol Kulyashow, Mr. Lyabedzka urged the law-enforcement agencies to refrain from using force to break up peaceful demonstrations not only in Minsk but also in "many other cities."
Many European countries will closely follow news from Belarus, as the issue of the politically motivated abductions has not been removed from the European agenda, Mr. Lyabedzka said in Tuesday`s interview with BelaPAN. Viktar Hanchar, an ex-lawmaker and former chairman of the central election commission, and his friend Anatol Krasowski disappeared on September 16, 1999. They were last seen at about 11 p.m., when they were leaving a public bathhouse at number 20 Fabrychnaya Street in Minsk.
Mr. Krasowski`s Jeep Cherokee that they were driving that night also disappeared.
In June 2001, media outlets in Belarus received a videotaped interview with former investigators who accused the authorities of sponsoring a death squad to eliminate political opponents.
The squad allegedly killed their victims with a pistol used for executions of people on death row. Aleh Alkayew, a former chief of a death row prison who was granted political asylum in Germany in 2001, testified that he had issued the pistol to Dzmitry Pawlichenka, commander of an elite police unit, shortly before the disappearances of Messrs. Hanchar and Krasowski.
However, that line of inquiry was rejected after Mr. Lukashenka fired Prosecutor General Aleh Bazhelka and KGB Chairman Uladzimir Matskevich in late November 2000.