Dozens detained in Belarus as election protests continue

Dozens detained in Belarus as election protests continue
By bne IntelliNews July 15, 2020

Belarusian police detained dozens of demonstrators on July 15 as protests against the barring of two major opposition candidates from the presidential ballot continued all over the country.

In the capital Minsk, thousands showed up to file official complaints at the central elections commission against the exclusion of Viktor Babariko and Valery Tsepalko from the ballot for the presidential election, scheduled for August 9. Both were considered to be the strongest challengers to incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko who has ruled Belarus since 1994.

People eager to file complaints formed a 3-km long line outside the elections commission building. When the agency closed for the day at 7pm local time, police began detaining people who still stood there, Radio Liberty reported.

Among the detained were Radio Liberty correspondent Anton Trafimovich and Violetta Savchits, a correspondent of news agency BelaPAN. Both journalists were later released, but Trafimovich said he was hit in the nose and bled while being detained.

The human rights group Vesna said that at least 20 people were arrested, while another 15 demonstrators were detained in the town of Borisov located 80 km away from Minsk.

A day earlier, thousands of people also took to the streets of Minsk and other cities in protest, and police said 250 were detained.

Babariko, an ex-banker detained a month ago on money-laundering and bribery charges, was barred from the ballot because of a criminal investigation against him, according to the election commission.

Tsepkalo, a former ambassador to the US and founder of a successful high-tech park in Belarus' capital Minsk, was also rejected after a large proportion of signatures supporting his presidential bid were nullified.

The presidential election in Belarus is scheduled for August 9.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s election watchdog, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said it won't send monitors for the election because it did not receive a request from the Belarusian authorities on time.