Friday, March 24, 2006

Belarus: the batons come out

Since the sham-election in Belarus last weekend, a lonely contingent of protestors has kept a vigil in October Square in Minsk to protest the fixed result. Over the past few days, they've been continually harassed by police, and people travelling to join them have been arrested and imprisoned on spurious charges. The regime's intention was clearly to suffocate the protest (or "wring its neck like a duck", to use President Lukashenko's charming phrase) rather than stage a highly public violent crackdown. But this morning, that changed. Riot police stormed the square, dragged the protestors from their tents, and loaded them onto trucks. The Charter 97 website reports that many were beaten. It's unclear exactly what charges the protestors will face, but at this stage the regime's pre-election warnings equating dissent with terrorism are more than a little worrying...