"Social network" protests, state repression continue in Belarus
Belarus faced condemnation from European and UN leaders Aug. 5 over the arrest of Ales Beliatsky, head of the human rights group Vyasna (Spring) who was detained outside his home after months of police pressure and charged with crimes punishable by seven years in prison. Beliatsky was ostensibly arrested on tax evasion charges, but his organization had been closely monitoring the regime's response to ongoing "social network" protests in Belarus. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Belarus "to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Beliatsky and all human rights defenders in Belarus." (AFP, Aug. 5)
On July 3, as Belarus celebrated Independence Day, the latest in a series of "silent protest actions" was held simultaneously in central squares of towns and cities around the country—the crowds expressing their dissent only with silence and clapping. Nevertheless, hundreds were beaten and arrested, mostly by plainclothes police. Protesters were also sprayed with tear gas by plainclothes men at Station Square in Minsk. Hundreds more were arrested when a follow-up silent protest was held in Minsk on July 6. Drawing inspiration fomr the Arab Spring, the protesters have organized through social media networks. (Belarus Human Rights House, "in exile" in Vilnius, July 9; PYX.by, June 23)
See our last post on the struggle in Belarus.