|Belarus: an eyewitness account:
Summary account - for full version
President Alexander Lukashenko has been re-elected in Belarus in an election widely condemned as a sham by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the USA and the EU. Lukashenko awarded himself 82.6% of the vote, and 6% to Alexander Milinkievich, the main opposition candidate. Approximately 1500 opposition activists were imprisoned over the course of the campaign and its aftermath, including a second democratic presidential candidate Alexander Kazulin, leader of the United Civil Party Anatoly Lebedko, and leader of the Belarusian Popular Front and Milinkievich campaign aide Vintsuk Vyachorka.
Protests took place on election day (19th March) in Minsk’s October Square, with estimates of numbers ranging up to 30,000. Protesters returned on the following nights. At first it seemed as though no protesters were being targeted by police, but on 20th March it emerged that many were being arrested in nearby metro stations and streets, away from the square and cameras. Lukashenko’s militia finally broke up the remaining protesters on Friday 24th March, arresting and beating 400 innocent people at a stroke.
The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission has been promoting Belarus’ plight in recent weeks. Take a look at William Hague’s article in the Times in the week before the election. An Early Day Motion in the House of Commons was penned by Gary Streeter MP, who also organised a demonstration by the Belarusian Embassy in London on 20th March.
Martin Smith also visited Belarus for the days of the election and took part in the demonstrations in October Square. You can see his eyewitness accounts here.