Belarus frees some 100 activists jailed over election protests

Police in Belarus have released about 100 supporters of Belarusian opposition detained in Minsk during an unauthorized protest rally after Sunday's presidential election that saw incumbent leader Alexander Lukashenko win a landslide victory, police said.

More than 600 people were detained in the Belarusian capital during a police crackdown on demonstrators after the vote that the opposition said had been rigged.

Some 500 protesters are still serving short jail terms of up to 15 days, known in the former Soviet republics as "administrative arrests." Nineteen detainees, including five presidential candidates, are in a State Security Committee (KGB) jail while investigations continue and could face terms of up to 15 years for organizing mass riots.

Some of those released were fined, Minsk police spokesman Alexander Lastovsky said.

Lukashenko, 56, who has ruled Belarus with an iron rod since 1994 and has been dubbed by the United States "Europe's last dictator" for a clampdown on opposition and dissent, won 79.67% of the vote. International monitors said the election was "flawed."

The United States and the European Union have called on Belarusian authorities to immediately release opposition activists who were arrested during the protests.

MINSK, December 23 (RIA Novosti)


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