Belarus prosecutor promises more trials


Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus - The government's top prosecutor promised Wednesday to bring more trials of opposition activists who protested the disputed March 19 presidential election.

The victory by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who officials say garnered 83 percent of the vote, set off days of demonstrations that drew thousands of people to Minsk's central square. The protests there ended when police staged a pre-dawn raid last Friday, breaking up an opposition tent camp.

Prosecutor General Pyotr Miklashevich said more than 500 people, including 21 foreigners, have been detained. That is about half the number of detainees estimated by rights advocates.

Miklashevich also said authorities may hold opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich responsible for the protests after the election that gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a third term.

Milinkevich could be charged with a misdemeanor for organizing the protests. The charge brings 15 days in jail.

Milinkevich, who officially received 6 percent of the vote, called the election a fraud. The United States and the European Union said the vote was deeply undemocratic and have vowed sanctions against Lukashenko and other officials.

The NATO alliance said Wednesday it was reappraising its relations with Belarus.

"The allies are looking carefully at the relationship," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

It was unclear what measures NATO would take.

Lukashenko told a government meeting that police action maintained the stability of the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

"Peace and order have returned the country just as it was," he said in televised comments Tuesday.

Rights advocates protesting conditions at a Belarusian jail where some 400 opposition supporters are being held have said that 20 inmates had gone on hunger strike.

A group of U.N. human rights experts demanded Wednesday that Belarus provide the names, locations and charges of people arrested in connection with the vote.