Police 'threatened to rape' Belarus Free Theatre director after election protest

The artistic director of the Belarus Free Theatre Company says she was threatened with being beaten and raped after being arrested during protests over last week's disputed election.

By Roland Oliphant, Moscow 6:40PM GMT 25 Dec 2010

Natalia Koliada is the artistic director of an world-renowned theatre company, rubbing shoulders with such luminaries of the dramatic world as Tom Stoppard, Sienna Miller, Jude Law and Ian McKellen.

Earlier this month she joined a star-studded gathering at London's Old Vic to raise awareness of the Belarus Free Theatre, the independent performing arts group which she co-founded five years ago.

But Ms Koliada, 37, is also one of the most outspoken critics of the repressive regime which has led to her country being branded Europe's last dictatorship. Although the Free Theatre performs in a small house on the outskirts of Minsk, it has risen to international prominence for the quality of its performances and its fearless challenging of Mr Lukashenko's rule.

Now she has described how she was arrested, threatened with rape and tried without access to her lawyer after riot police broke up a 10,000-strong demonstration protesting at apparently rigged elections.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country with a rod of iron for 16 years, was reported to have won with 80 per cent of the vote, while according to official figures his nearest rival received just 2.4 per cent.


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