Post- Election Chaos in Belarus: Presidential Candidates, Journalists Beaten and Jailed
Hundreds of protestors have been beaten and jailed by police in Belarus, in the wake of widespread protests over the election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Amid international outrage, Lukashenko defended his security forces on Monday for stopping the "banditry" of the "vandals" in the streets. "There will be no revolution or criminality in Belarus," he said.
Six opposition presidential candidates have been arrested – among them former deputy foreign minister Andrei Sannikov, who is married to famed journalist Irina Khalip. Khalip – a IWMF Courage in Journalism award winner – is being detained after being taken away by police, who bashed her head against the car door.
"The special forces were kicking people in the head when they had fallen to the ground," Sannikov's sister, Irina Bogdanova, told reporters. "It was absolutely barbaric. "Andrei was beaten up once and his friends helped him to a car," she said. "Then the police wrenched open the door, beat him again and dragged him off."
IWMF Executive Director Liza Gross expressed outrage over the attacks and arrests. “Imagine if after the 2000 election recount, George W. Bush had sent in police to arrest Al Gore and then beaten up his wife. This is what is happening in Belarus. Khalip has warned that the country was heading into this disaster.”
On Friday, two days before the election, Khalip e-mailed Gross saying, that in the last few days “the head of Lukashenko's administration and KGB's chief frighten people that ‘the oppositional leaders are preparing explosions’ and similar bullshit. But we are not in fear; we do believe that Belarus will be free and democratic very soon. Everything will be solved not in the polling stations but in the streets.”
The Guardian is reporting that Sannikov managed to text an acquaintance, saying: "I'm being taken to the KGB." Secret police later in the day used his wife's key to enter their apartment, where Khalip's parents were looking after the couple's three-year-old son. "They were petrified," said Bogdanova.
In Minsk the evening of Dec. 19, several journalists were beaten
: Natalia Radina (charter97.org), Ruslan Gorbachev (gazeta.by), Viktor Tolochko (BelTA), Ales Piletsky («Nasha Niva»), John Hill (The New York Times) There are reports that cameramen from the Russia Today TV Channel Anton Kharchenko and Viktor Filiaev, photographer Andrey Lenkevich are injured. Correspondents of the web-portal tut.by Konstantin Lashkevich and photocorrespondent of «BelGazeta» Vadim Zamirovsky are being detained.
Another Belarusian presidential candidate, Vladimir Neklyayev, was dragged from a hospital bed and arrested, hours after police beat him on the head at a rally protesting the election victory of the hardline leader.