At least 1,127 protesters were detained yesterday across Belarus, as riot police and other law enforcement officers violently dispersed a dozen protests, including the 14th consecutive weekly demonstration in Minsk since the August 9 presidential election. Yesterday’s protests were held to honor the memory of Raman Bandarenka who died on November 12, allegedly at the hands of law enforcement officers.
The police tried to prevent protesters from gathering in Minsk’s Puškinskaja Square and later used non-lethal weapons to attack separate columns of unarmed and mostly peaceful demonstrators. The dispersal was particularly violent after the police encircled several hundred protesters in Raman Bandarenka’s neighborhood, where a grassroots memorial had been organized. The protesters were detained and the memorial was destroyed by the police and the city’s sanitation department, as a result.
Human rights defenders and the media stress that the police’s treatment of the protesters once again amounted to torture. In particular, detained demonstrators were again forced to stand facing a fence in the yard of a district police department in Minsk. They were ordered to raise their hands and remained motionless for eight hours, while the temperature was as low as 0 degrees Celsius. At least twenty detained protesters were taken to Minsk hospitals after their stay in the district police departments. They were beaten and otherwise abused. One person was hit by a police bus.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists said that at least two dozen reporters were detained during the Sunday protests. The journalists were held despite wearing marked vests and carrying valid press IDs.
Some detained protesters and several journalists were eventually released, while facing “illegal protesting” charges. Others remained in detention and will stand administrative trials in the coming days.
According to the lawyers of several persons detained yesterday, they were named suspects in a new criminal case of “group actions that gravely breach public order” (Art. 342 of the Criminal Code). After the November 1 protest, the authorities used similar tactics to prosecute over 230 detained protesters.