At least 240 arrested in Belarus protests against barring of opposition candidates (photos, videos)

OMON detains protesters in Belarus. 14 July 2020. Source: Viasna 

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Edited by: Yuriy Zoria

On 14 July, The Belarusian Central Election Commission (CEC) announced that it registered five candidates for the upcoming presidential elections set for 9 August. Two top oppositional rivals of President Aliaksandr Lukashenka, incumbent since 1994, were not registered, which provoked mass protests. The government responded by violent detentions.

UPDATE. According to a final tally by the Viasna human rights center, in total, at least 420 people were detained during mass rallies during 14-15 July; over 330 of them were in Minsk.

Minsk, Belarus. 14 July 2020. Detention of journalists of Euroradio, Radio Svoboda, Belsat during live streaming. The video shows that some of the journalists were detained by people looking like civilians, although they are actually plainclothes police officers.

Brest, Belarus. 14 July 2020. Violent detention of a couple in Brest by special police unit OMON:

Who and why CEC denied registration as presidential candidates

According to Belarusian laws, candidates for the presidency should collect at least 100,000 signatures of the citizens to be registered for elections. Valeriy Tsepkalo, a prominent businessman and former Belarusian ambassador to the United States says his team has collected 160,000 in support of him. However, on 1 July, CEC recognized only 75,000 signatures and therefore refused to register Tsepkalo. Tsepkalo said “it’s nonsense” and he was going to question the decision. He has started collecting new signatures online to demonstrate publicly that he really has enough support.

On 14 June, CEC announced their decision not to register another opposition candidate Viktor Babaryka, citing inconsistencies in his declaration of income and property, as well as alleged involvement of foreign organizations in his campaign. Babaryka was arrested on June 18 for alleged tax evasion that he himself denies and thinks charges are politically-motivated. Babaryka was the strongest Lukashenko’s rival. His campaign headquarters said they had collected nearly 435,000 signatures – an unprecedented number for an independent candidate in Belarus.

CEC has registered as one of five candidates Sviatlana Tsikhanovska, who is the wife of a detained vlogger, Siarhey Tsikhanovskyi. He was sentenced to 10 days in Jail in May for participation in an unsanctioned rally. However, the detention was 5 times prolonged, possibly to prevent him from running for the presidency.

Tsikhanovska also called on OMON to stop mass detentions in Belarus:

Employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, OMON! What are you doing? You just beat your mothers, sisters, brothers, children. People came out to a peaceful protest. People came out to express their dissatisfaction with the existing system. <…> Genocide is going on with your hands. Stop please.

OMON trucks that took detainees from the streets. Source: viasna

Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko holding his post since 1994 is seeking the sixth term in office.

Rallies and detentions

On 14 July, peaceful protests erupted across Belarus. People took to the streets of various cities mostly in small groups, clapped their hands, some were flying Belarusian flags. However, according to the official statement of Olga Chemodanova, official representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus,

A number of Internet resources and users who are outside the Republic of Belarus call on citizens to gather on the streets of our country’s cities to hold unauthorized actions. We remind you of the inadmissibility of participation in illegal mass events. Police officers will take all measures aimed at maintaining public order and suppressing illegal actions! Any provocations will be suppressed in accordance with current legislation.

Subsequently, police detained at least 240 protesters, including journalists, Belarusian human rights watchdog Viasna reports. Some of the detainees were later released.

People protesting:

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Edited by: Yuriy Zoria

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