By : dpa
Minsk - Belarus' authoritarian government has unleashed a series of home searches against opposition activists, arresting a number of government critics temporarily, the Belapan news agency reported Wednesday.
Masked policemen carried out the nationwide raids over several days in the widest-reaching crackdown against dissent in the former Soviet republic in two years, opposition spokesmen said.
Apartments of opposition leaders, and editorial offices of independent media, were the primary targets, Belapan reported.
Opposition writer Vladimir Nekliaev, a proclaimed opponent in the upcoming presidential election, was among those arrested.
Political activists of the banned anti-government group Speak The Truth also were detained.
Office space used by the human rights organization Charter 97 and the home of prominent dissident Andrei Sannikov likewise were searched.
Some rooms and offices were ransacked by law enforcement officials for hours before they left the premises with confiscated computers and books, according to the report.
Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko ordered the raids personally in preparation for an election next year he intends to win, said Valery Karbalevich, a Minsk-based political analyst.
"The closer (to the actual day of) the election, the more arrests there will be," Karbalevich said.
Lukashenko late last year imposed state censorship of the Internet. European human rights activists have called him "Europe's last dictator." mr wj sbk ay ds Author: Stefan Korshak