Observers of the civil initiative Election Observation: Theory and Practice (EOTP) have been kept in a police office for three hours.
About 20 observers of the EOTP were arrested on Shchedryna Street near a hostel called Jazz in Minsk on Monday. They were taken to the police office of the Central district of Minsk.
According to Anastasia Matchenko, coordinator of the initiative, the observers were arrested by riot policemen that grabbed people and pushed them roughly into a paddy wagon.
"There were 20-25 people of us. It is hard to tell precisely because the three foreigners who stayed in the hostel were also arrested. Even plumbers that came to fix something were taken, too." Ms. Matchenko said. "We have spent about three hours in the police office of the Central district. We were fingerprinted, our belongings were searched."
According to her, the arrest happened because of Belarus' parliamentary elections, but the arrested were not told reasons of the arrest in the police office.
Although, it is not the first election campaign that the initiative has monitored "there had been no such attention from law enforcers before," Ms. Matchenko said, adding that she feel a concern over the arrest that can scare first-time observers away from similar activities.
The observers have not decided whether to appeal the arrest, but they intend to inform as much people as they can about the case. In particular, to inform international observers and journalists.
About 60 polling stations in 35 electoral districts in Belarus were monitored by observers of the EOTP during the past Belarus' parliamentary elections. The EOTP reported numerous violations during the week of early vote and during the election day of September 23.
According to the EOTP, there were such violations as overstatement of voter turnout, vote with a passport of a Russian citizen, enforcement to vote early and others.
The EOTP was launched in 2007 at the initiative of the students of European Humanities University (EHU). The initiative is jointly implemented by the Belarus Watch, the University and Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius. The EOTP offers an opportunity to learn about the experience of independent observers from Belarus and to gain practical skills via actual observation of elections in the neighboring countries.