More than 70 people appeared in court in Minsk on Tuesday, after taking part in a ‘clapping’ protest. Some of them were sentenced to varying terms in jail.
The accused were part of demonstrations in the Belarus capital during independence day celebrations orchestrated by social websites calling on protesters to applaud in unison.
Plain clothes police led a round up of demonstrators and a tear gas canister was fired into the crowd.
One protester Marina, whose boyfriend was taken to court, summed up the feelings of many of them when she said:
“They, the authorities have started to be frightened of the people, they’ve begun to fear the people. It was a civil action, not an opposition demonstration. Actually on the station square it was terrifying – I wasn’t there but just from the pictures I got goosebumps. How can they treat their own people like that?”
The latest wave of protests against the 17 year rule of President Alexander Lukashenko has sprung up in the ex-Soviet republic after a crackdown last December when many opposition leaders were jailed.
Before the independence day military parade, Lukashenko said the protests were part of a plot to overthrow him which he intended to stop. Analysts do not see any immediate threat to his grip on power.