Over 20 Opposition Activists Arrested
More than 20 opposition activists were arrested in a police crackdown on an unsanctioned demonstration that was to have been staged in downtown Minsk on Tuesday evening.
The demonstrators planned to gather in Kastrychnitskaya Square at 6 p.m. to demand an end to political persecution and commemorate the unsolved disappearances of four opponents of the government.
Police grabbed a number of people as they approached the venue, while others were arrested in the square a few minutes later. Among them were Mikola Dzemidzenka, deputy chairman of a youth group called Malady Front, and three young women who attempted to unfurl a sign saying, "In Solidarity with the Unofficial Union of Poles in Belarus."
Only two of the several dozen policemen in the square were uniformed. They kept saying through megaphones that drinking beer in public places would be illegal starting February 23.
Like in previous similar incidents, policemen used force against journalists, blocking their photo and video cameras from operating, pushing them away from the demonstrators and chasing after them around the square.
A policeman, who introduced himself as Warrant Officer Ihnatsyew, took away the press card of Yuliya Darashkevich, a photographer with the private weekly Nasha Niva. Together with demonstrators, Ms. Darashkevich was taken to the Tsentralny district police station. She was accused of hitting a policeman while taking photographs of the demonstration.
According to a spokesperson for Nasha Niva, Ms. Darashkevich said over the phone that police were drawing up a list of her equipment, and that she would probably spend the night at the detention center on Akrestsina Street.
Nasha Niva has already contacted lawyers who are ready to defend Ms. Darashkevich in court, the spokesperson said. In addition, the newspaper plans to appeal to the international community, foreign diplomats and human rights defenders over the arrest of its employee.
Opposition activists in Belarus and sympathizers throughout the world have been observing a so-called Day of Solidarity on the 16th day of each month since September 16, 2005, the anniversary of the 1999 disappearance of opposition politician Viktar Hanchar and his friend, businessman Anatol Krasowski.
Messrs. Hanchar and Krasowski, as well as former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, who mysteriously disappeared in 1999, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski, who went missing the following year, are alleged to have been kidnapped and murdered by a government-run death squad.
ll people who were arrested by police in Minsk on Tuesday evening over an attempt to demonstrate were released after brief detention.