A large number of people in the two Belarusian Cooperation parties of the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation have been arrested in connection with protests organized by the democratic opposition following Sunday’s elections. Party leader of the UCP, Anatol Liabedzka was arrested when his apartment was stormed during the night between Sunday and Monday.
Meanwhile, Ryhor Kastusiou, presidential candidate from the Foundation’s other cooperation partner, BPF, was also arrested. An estimated total of 10.000-20.000 people participated in demonstrations and at least 600 people were arrested.
Belarusians went to the polls on Sunday December 19, and the result was as feared by the democratic opposition: the State Election Commission announced that Alexander Lukashenko was reelected with 79.7 percent. Voter turnout was reported to be 90 percent.
Already on Sunday evening, the opposition protested against what they said was rigged elections and the government used violence to suppress the protests. One of the leading opposition candidates, Uladzimir Niaklajeu, was beaten so seriously that he lost consciousness. He was taken to hospital where he later was picked up by the police. At least one of the authors of the book Diaries of Dissidents (recently published by Hjalmarson Foundation) has been arrested: Ilya Bohdan. The same goes for many young individuals that during the years have participated in JHS activities in Sweden.
Christian Holm, moderate MP, Board member of the Hjalmarson Foundation and international election observer said: After the polls closed, tens of thousands of discontented Belarusians gathered in the October Square, where authorities immediately intervened. At that point the protesters began walking toward the Independence Square and the Parliamentary and Government buildings. Several leader of opposition parties made speeches as more and more people gathered. Soon a large number of riot police armed with shields and batons came to the square. They began pushing aside and beat demonstrators. At the same time military buses and trucks arrived. These were used for removing demonstrators that had been arrested.
In the days following the elections searches have been conducted by the police and KGB on the premises of the opposition.