Mass arrests in Belarus: What happened?

Belarus celebrates Freedom Day on March 25
18:25, 27 March 2017

112 Agency

Belarus celebrated Freedom Day on March 25. Planned events were replaced by mass detentions. People planned to celebrate Freedom Day with a rally and march in Minsk. The start was scheduled for 14:00 at the Academy of Sciences. First there should have been a rally, and then - Freedom March.

Soon it was reported about the arrests of hundreds of people as well as 57 human rights defenders and volunteers. Later the same day they were released, four of them appeared to have Ukrainian residence permit.

Law enforcement officers have detained 57 human rights defenders and volunteers, who were to watch today’s Freedom March, according to journalist Konstantin Reutski. People who could not get to Academy of Sciences gathered near the monument, he noted.

"Literally 15 minutes ago policemen attacked the protesters, who were standing peacefully… We saw that police detained several activists during this attack," journalist Konstantin Reutski wrote.

"An hour ago, we saw how OMON officers were detaining human rights defenders who were to observe the protest action. They were undergoing instructions… There were 57 people, European citizens, journalists among them," he added.

As it was reported by Viasna human rights center the searches started in the Minsk office. OMON soldiers broke into the premises at about 1 p.m., busting down the door. As a human right defender informs, "everybody was put on the ground". "White bus with many police representatives was standing outside. The area was completely sealed off."

Related: Ukrainian journalist detained in Belarus

It is noteworthy that the action for the Freedom Day was to be held in Minsk center, police enhanced patrolling. Police cordons were placed in Minsk downtown due to the event.

57 human rights defenders were detained only because police did not want them to participate in march. This was stated by one of the detained activists, a citizen of Belarus Yevgenia Andreiuk, who now lives in Kyiv.

"We are in Minsk, we continue to work, we monitor the situation from the point of human rights." At 12:00 we had a meeting in the center "Vesna", our large international team. We were detained preemptively, for three hours, with the goal that we did not get to the action and did not see what was happening. They let us go at about 15:15, but their goal was achieved. Also were not allowed to call on the phone, fill protocols, but it was tolerable," Andreiuk said.

At the same time, according to the human rights activist, other detainees are in police stations and isolators: "Their detentions were tough, they were beaten and searched."

Hundreds of civilians and over 20 journalists were detained in Minsk. This was reported by blogger Anton Molotko.

"CrimeaSOS" reported that among the detainees there were employees of this organization Evgenia Andreyuk and Maria Kvitsinskaya, as well as a number of foreign journalists, local and foreign human rights defenders.

Related: US concerned over dispersal of peaceful rally in Belarus

Earlier law enforcement bodies of Belarus have detained opposition leader Vladimir Neklyayev, who is one of the organizers of unauthorized rally planned for March 25 in Minsk.

"Belarusian poet, presidential candidate at 2010 elections, Vladimir Neklyayev, was detained at 2 a.m. at night. Police removed him from the train in Brest as he was returning to motherland from Warsaw, where he participated in discussion about situation in Belarus," journalist Ales Lipai, the director of information agency BelaPAN, wrote.

Also, Ukrainian was arrested for 15 days for participating in Minsk protests. A judge said Ruslan Tereshchenko was detained for 5 days for taking part in an unauthorized demonstration and for 10 days – for foul language. Tereshchenko himself denies accusations in using abusive language.

Several international organizations condemned the arrests in Belarus.

OSCE condemned use of force against peaceful demonstrators in Belarus. Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights called on the Belarusian authorities to refrain from using any form of sanctions or excessive force to suppress dissent and legitimate right to freedom of expression

EU demands the release of citizens detained in Belarus during protest rally. The head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, is concerned about the detentions.

Related: SBU sent inquiry to Belarus regarding militants’ training camps in Ukraine

The US Embassy in Belarus expressed its deep concern over the opposition of the authorities of Belarus to holding peaceful actions on the occasion of Freedom Day. It also calls for the immediate release of detained peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and journalists, ensuring the right of citizens to hold peaceful assemblies and freedom of speech in accordance with international obligations. This was stated in a message on the embassy's website.

Earlier it was reported that 70 journalists were detained in Belarus during month. They arrest both local and foreign countries’ media representatives. British journalist Phillip Warwick who works for English service of RFI (Radio France internationale) and Deutsche Welle radio station was detained during the Freedom Day in Belarus, on Saturday, March 25.

Prosecution of journalists by the authorities continues non-stop in Belarus, reports Belsat TV channel. As a result of dispersing of the Freedom Day demonstration, the representatives of the channel were arrested in Minsk, Babruysk and Gomel.

Working week in Minsk also started with trials of Belsat journalists Aleksandr Borozenko, Denis Ivashyn from Infprmnapalm and Artem Sizintsev from Radio Ratsia.

Related: Lukashenko: To conduct provocations in Belarus, militants trained in Ukraine

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