Police raid Belarus event management firms

Police raids on event management firms in Belarus suspected of having links to the opposition are part of continuing efforts by the authorities there to suppress dissent, Viasna, the Belarusian human rights centre, claims.

Videos released in Tallin show employees apparently admitting to links with opposition leaders, as well as acknowledging having taken part in mass protest marches in 2020. The videos could not be verified immediately. It was unclear whether people spoke under duress.

Demonstrations broke out in Belarus when President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in the 2020 election which critics and observers had decried as fraudulent. The ensuing pro-democracy marches triggered a violent backlash from police, resulting in the detention of some 35,000 people.

According to Viasna, at least four people were detained in the latest raids in the capital Minsk and across Belarus.

Those detained included Belarusian comic Kiryl Allahverdzyan, who was filmed by police saying that that the opposition TV channel Belsat had invited him to appear in clips portraying Belarus law enforcement “in a humourous way.”

Another clip released on a social media channel favoured by Belarusian officialdom, showed Aleh Astralenka, the deputy director of event management firm Pink Zebra, admitting to having joined opposition marches on two occasions in 2020. He indicated that because of his actions, the company would no longer be listed on the government’s register of cultural event organisers.

Some 1,391 political prisoners are currently detained behind bars in Belarus. Among them is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, according to Viasna. A report published mid-week says 161 people were convicted in political cases last month.

“Anyone who has ever participated in a protest or criticised the  political situation in Belarus risks being arbitrarily convicted and thrown into inhumane conditions,” according to the report.

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