MINSK, Belarus – A Belarusian human rights group says seven activists have been arrested while taking part in a round-table discussion in the country's capital.
The reported detentions were the latest in a crackdown on opposition and rights groups that began after December's presidential election sparked a massive protest over alleged vote-count fraud. Some 700 people, including seven presidential candidates, were arrested after the vote, in which authoritarian incumbent Alexander Lukashenko was declared the landslide winner.
Valentin Stefanovich, of the Belarusian rights group Vesna, said plainclothes officers and one in uniform burst into the office where the round-table on police reform was being held Saturday afternoon. The seven activists arrested included a Russian and three Ukrainians, Stefanovich said.
The police beatings of demonstrators at the elections protest and the subsequent crackdown have prompted harsh criticism of Lukashenko from the West. The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions, including a travel ban on Lukashenko and some of his high officials.
Many of those arrested in December have received heavy sentences from courts. Three of the opposition presidential candidates were sentenced to between five to six years in prison; two others got suspended sentences and two more are awaiting sentencing.