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Europe

Belarus jails hundreds of demonstrators

More than 580 opponents of Belarus' reelected president, Alexander Lukashenko, have been sent to jail. They were detained after taking part in mass protests in Minsk following Sunday's vote.

Riot police in Minsk on Sunday December 19

Riot police faced down the crowds of protestors

A Belarus court jailed on Tuesday more than 580 people involved in protests against the reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko.

They will spend between five and 15 days behind bars, while prosecutors continue investigating whether any are guilty of organizing "mass disturbances." That crime carries a sentence of up to 15 years.

"It is not a fact that all of them will be released after 15 days," Minsk police spokesman Alexander Lastovsky told the AFP news agency.

People trying to kick their way into a government building in Minsk on Sunday December 19

Protestors tried to smash their way into government buildings on Sunday night

Western governments have condemned the use of violence against the demonstrators. Thousands had taken to the streets of the capital, Minsk, in protest against Lukashenko's election victory, which they said was a fraud.

Lukashenko praised his security forces for quelling opposition and vowed to come down hard on the protestors.

Seven of his nine election challengers were arrested. At least two of them are thought to be undergoing interrogation in the hands of Belarus' security services in Minsk. Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, called on Monday for their "immediate release."

Lukashenko, known as "Europe's last dictator," won a fourth term as Belarus' leader, gaining close to 80 percent of the vote.

Author: Thomas Sheldrick (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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