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Nearly 300 people were detained in Minsk and other cities of Belarus on July 14, after two key alternative candidates were barred from running in the presidential election scheduled for August 9. Some of them were released without charges later the same evening. The following day, in Minsk, Brest and Barysaŭ, others stood hasty carbon-copy trials that sent at least 20 peaceful protesters to serve up to 15 days in prison conditions, which human rights defenders say amount to torture. At least 30 more were sentenced to heavy fines of up to 1,350 rubles (USD 560).
A spokesperson for the Minsk city police department said 115 protesters were charged.
On the same day, July 15, at least 25 people were detained in Minsk after they lined up outside the Central Election Commission office in Minsk to file complaints against the CEC’s decision which had sparked the July 14 protests. More than 2,000 people were reportedly seen in the queue, and it stretched no less than a kilometer. At least 15 people were also detained in Hrodna and Barysaŭ.
Anton Trafimovich, a reporter working with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarus service, was brutally detained while covering the events in Minsk. The journalist received a blow on his nose during the arrest. The following day the police said they had to use violence after Trafimovich tried to disobey. As a result, the reporter was charged with an administrative offense (Art. 23.4 of the Administrative Code, “resisting arrest”) and will have to stand trial soon.
However, several audio clips of the police radio communication that were leaked to RFE/RL show that the journalist was followed by police officers and the arrest was prepared in advance.
At least four people were arrested in three criminal cases opened after the July 14 protests in Minsk. Anton Shumau and three other unnamed men are suspected of participating in “disturbances” (Part 1, Art. 342), “resisting police officers” (Art. 363) and “using violence against police officers” (Art. 364 of the Criminal Code), the Investigative Committee said on July 16.
The authorities say that extensive video footage of the protests shows numerous instances of violence used against police officers. Some of the law enforcement officers were taken to hospital, the investigators said.
Media reports and observers, however, argue that it were the riot policemen who used excessive violence and truncheons against peaceful protesters and provoked the clashes.