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Belarus Starts Releasing Election Protesters From Jail

December 29, 2010

MINSK -- Belarusian authorities have started to release people detained during a postelection demonstration on December 19, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Some 20 people were released on December 29 after completing their 10-day jail sentences.

More releases are expected over the next few days.

Some 600 people, including five election candidates, were detained after police violently broke up the December 19 rally against the election victory of incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The West has strongly condemned the election and its ensuing police crackdown.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported that those released were greeted outside the prison by relatives and friends bearing gifts.

An official preliminary count of the December 19 vote handed the authoritarian leader a fourth term in office with almost 80 percent of the vote.

Independent polls ahead of the election, however, suggested Lukashenka's real support was much lower.

International observers and Western governments have described the election as "flawed" and condemned the ensuing crackdown on Lukashenka's opponents.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay joined the chorus of criticism, voicing concern over "violence against, and abduction of, opposition candidates and their supporters."


Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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