Swiss join calls to release Belarus protestors

Scenes of protest in Minsk on Sunday night. Keystone / Anna Ivanova

The Swiss foreign ministry has criticised the official police reaction in Belarus following protests which erupted in response to Sunday’s presidential election.

This content was published on August 12, 2020 - 10:22 with SRF, Keystone-SDA/Reuters/dos, ug

“Switzerland expects the Belarusian authorities to release all people detained yesterday and to uphold democracy, rule-of-law, and human rights,” the ministry tweeted on Monday.

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It was referring to the arrests of hundreds of people following protests against the declared victory of incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko in elections at the weekend.

A Swiss citizen is among the more than 5,000 detained demonstrators but the Swiss authorities have not been able to contact the 20-year old man held in prison, according to the foreign ministry.

It added the case had "high priority" and a senior foreign ministry official had raised the issue in talks with her Belarus counterpart.

The Swiss national apparently shares a prison cell with at least 15 other foreigners, according to a report by the Swiss public radio, SRF.

Lukashenko, who has been in power in Belarus for 26 years, won with more than 80% of votes against surprise candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. However, opponents rejected the victory announcement, citing massive vote fraud, and many of them took to the streets on Sunday, leading to a security operation that landed some 3,000 arrests.

The European Union also condemned on Monday the “disproportionate and unacceptable state violence against peaceful protesters” and called for the release of those arrested. On Tuesday the EU then announced it was reviewing its relations with Belarus.

The Swiss foreign ministry said it would “closely monitor further developments”.

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