Belarus

Belarus threatens party ban, jails 600

Reuters/Gleb Garanich

Belarus threatened Tuesday to shut down political parties that took part in protests against the reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko, after jailing 600 for taking part in Sunday’s demonstration.

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"If the parties and public association took the decision [...] to take part in the mass disturbances, then we will raise the issue of their liquidation," Russian news agencies quoted Justice Minister Viktor Golovanov as saying.

The former Soviet republic has 15 registered political parties, although they remain largely sidelined from power.

Earlier, 600 people who had taken parts in the polling day protests at alleged voter fraud were jailed for 15 days, with police saying that some will face much longer sentences.

They are being investigated for involvement in "organising mass disturbances", a crime that carries a sentence of up to 15 years.

None of the nine challengers to Lukashenko received more than three per cent of the vote. Seven of them have been arrested, with at least two reportedly being interrogated at the country's KGB secret service headquarters.

Lukashenko, who was reelected for a fourth term with nearly 80 per cent, threatened to crack down on his opponents in a televised press conference Monday.

"That is it," he said. "Our country will have no more senseless, muddle-headed democracy.

"I warned you. Kids, you are messing with the wrong guy."
 

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