120 people affected by new crackdown on peaceful protesters
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” is aware of at least 120 new cases of persecution targeting peaceful protesters documented since May 6, after police arrested critical vlogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski in Mahilioŭ.
The blogger, who runs a YouTube channel criticizing the authorities and recently announced his intent to run for President in the August election, was sent to serve 15 days of administrative detention.
Following Tsikhanouski’s arrest, his associates staged protests across the country to demand the blogger’s immediate release. The police, however, responded to the protests with a large-scale crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, arresting some 90 and charging at least 38 more people.
Some of them were released after facing charges, while 17 stood hasty trials and were sentenced to 2 to 15 days of detention. Trials were held in Lida, Mahilioŭ, Homieĺ, Viciebsk and Hrodna. More hearings are scheduled for the coming days.
The police also detained several human rights activist who monitored the gatherings, including two observers of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. Aliaksandr Burakou, activist of Viasna’s Mahilioŭ office, was detained on May 8. Uladzimir Vialichkin, Viasna’s representative in Brest, was detained on May 10.
Journalists who covered the protests were affected, too. In particular, police detained Belsat TV cameraman Aliaksandr Barazenka and BelaPAN reporter Ales Asiptsou.
Just like Tsikhanouski’s supporters, all of them were charged with ‘illegal protesting’ (Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses).