Belarus Police Detain Protesters and Journalists


Police in Belarus detained a group of opposition activists for staging an unlawful protest on Monday and held two journalists, including a Reuters photographer, who were covering the event.

Police made the detentions outside a courthouse in the town of Baranovichi, about two hours' drive from the capital Minsk, detained Reuters photographer Vasily Fedosenko said by mobile telephone from inside the local police station.

The activists were protesting against the prosecution of a member of outlawed opposition group Young Front who went on trial in Baranovichi on Monday on charges of membership of a banned group.

Fedosenko said police detained him, a photographer working for Agence France-Presse news agency, and about 20 protesters.

He said police officers said he would be taken to court on Monday and tried. The charge sheet, which he was shown, stated he had shouted opposition slogans and created a disturbance.

Belarus police said they had no comment and Fedosenko said he was simply doing his job as a journalist.

"They (the police) started detaining everyone, including the journalists, even though I showed them my official Belarus Foreign Ministry accreditation and told them I was carrying out my professional duties," said Fedosenko.

Western governments accuse Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of harassing opponents, muzzling the media and rigging elections. The United States and the European Union have stopped issuing entry visas to senior Belarus officials.

Lukashenko remains popular at home and tells voters he has spared them from the lawlessness and turmoil of other former Soviet republics.