By Yoohwan Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
MINSK, Belarus – Nationwide raids against human rights and opposition activists continue throughout Belarus as police and state officials searched offices and homes in Minsk, Hrodna, Brest, and Homel. The raids are a part of President Alexander Lukashenko’s ongoing crackdown against rights activists, opposition organizations, and independent news media. Many organizations have reported that the police have detained several members, and have confiscated office equipment and published materials during these raids.
Photo: Police raid activist’s offices in Belarus. [Source: Charter 97]
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee, an independent rights group, said that Belarusian authorities detained several dozen opposition activists beginning on Tuesday, May 18. Most of the detained activists were released after questioning, but some activists have been arrested. Those arrested have been accused of spreading false information, under Article 250 of the Criminal Code of Belarus.
Vladimir Nekliaev, a proclaimed opponent of the upcoming presidential election and the leader of the Speak the Truth opposition group, was arrested on charges of spreading false information. State officials searched Speak the Truth’s offices and its members’ homes for two consecutive days – May 18 and May 19.
The organization’s founder, Uladzimir Nyaklyayew, recently announced he may run against incumbent Lukashenko in the upcoming presidential election, which will be held either at the end of this year or the beginning of 2011. According to Nyaklyayew, the organization’s goal is to “prompt Belarusian society to realize the real state of affairs in the country where there is little room for truth but where there are a lot of lies.”
Andrei Dmitriyev, an activist of the opposition United Civil Party, and Sergei Voznyak, the editor of the opposition newspaper Tovarishch were also both arrested after police raided their offices. They were charged with spreading false information.
Following reports of the arrests, European Union officials expressed serious concern. “We are very concerned about the news. We’ll ask for explanations,” said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the EU’s policy chief.
In a statement made by European Parliament President, Jerzy Buzek, he urged for democratic reform in Belarus. “I call on the Belarus authorities to stop immediately all repression and intimidation of civil society groups and to get back on the way to democratization.”
The Interior Ministry of Belarus has declined to comment.
For more information, please see:
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY – Nationwide Raids Against Belarusian Rights Activists Continue – 20 May 2010
EARTH TIMES – EU ‘very concerned’ about Belarus opposition crackdown – 19 May 2010
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS – 2 opposition activists, journalist arrested in Belarus – 19 May 2010
WORLD BULLETIN – Belarus police detains opposition journalist, activist – 19 May 2010
CHARTER 97 – Wreaking havoc in oppositionists’ flats all over Belarus: computers and leaflets confiscated – 18 May 2010