Belarusian police arrest at least 25 in protest crackdown | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.06.2011
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Belarusian police arrest at least 25 in protest crackdown

Police in Belarus have arrested at least 25 protesters rallying against the authoritarian government of President Alexander Lukashenko in the capital, Minsk. Social networking sites were used to coordinate the protest.

Belarusian policemen detain young men in central Minsk after Belarusians gathered in Minsk to take part in an action 'Revolution via social network'

Arrests took place as protesters gathered in a main street

Belarusian police detained at least 25 people on Wednesday evening in a crackdown on opposition demonstrators gathered in the capital, Minsk.

Officers moved after up to 1,000 people gathered on Independence Prospect, a major thoroughfare, in response to calls on social networking websites for protests against the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.

Demonstrators were rounded up and placed on police buses, with the news agency Reuters reporting scores of arrests.

Rallies against Lukashenko's authoritarian rule are rare in the former-Soviet republic, but calls for an Arab-style revolution on social networking websites have grown more frequent in recent weeks as a severe currency crisis has brought economic hardship.

Horns sounded, applause for protests

Dozens of cars were reported to have joined the protests on Wednesday, sounding their horns while driving slowly along the road.

A participant applauds in front of a police line

Demonstrators began a coordinated applause

Other demonstrators joined in a coordinated applause to show their support for the protest, organized through websites such as Facebook and its Belarusian equivalent, Wkontakte.

The human rights organization Vesna-96 reported that about 100 people had been detained for holding protests in other parts of Belarus.

The increase in demonstrations has come as the country struggles to emerge from a currency crisis that has led to a 36 percent devaluation of its currency against the American dollar.

Warning from the top

Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and has been dubbed Europe's last dictator, indicated last week that he would sack his interior minister if the rallies against his regime continued.

Both the European Union and the United States have implemented a travel ban on Lukashenko since a police crackdown on an opposition protest against his controversial re-election last December.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has accused the regime of resorting to harassment, torture and blackmail to quell unrest.

Last Monday, the EU extended economic sanctions against Belarus, imposing an asset freeze on an arms trader close to the president.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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