Intellectuals arrested at Chernobyl demonstration

May 10, 1996

A Belarusian physicist is in prison without access to a lawyer and a lecturer from Minsk Polytechnic Academy in hospital with brain injuries as a result of a police attack on a rally to mark last month's tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

The organisers of the rally, scheduled to assemble outside the Academy of Sciences and then move to Independence Square had, its organisers stress, the permission of the city authorities. Who ordered the police to break it up is not officially known but special riot police were brought in from Russia a few days previously. President Alexander Lukashenka stated afterwards that he intended to outlaw all rallies since they could be used by his political opponents to criticise his rule, in particular the new treaty of integration with Russia.

An estimated 50,000 took part in the rally, 204 of whom, mostly students, were arrested and many others severely beaten. Those arrested include the physicist Yury Khadyka; Ales Zhlutka, a specialist in Latin philology; Lavon Barshcheuski, an activist of the Belarusian language society and former member of parliament; and political activist Vincuk Viachorka who launched a campaign for the restoration of the traditional flag and coat of arms of Belarus.

Some of the detainees were subsequently discharged; others received sentences of a few days' detention or fines.

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