THE WORLD

Belarusian authorities with a new wave of raids and confiscations of opposition properties

Alexander Lukashenko

Alexander Lukashenko

Photo: Associated Press

The authorities in Belarus on Tuesday raided and seized property, targeting over 200 opposition activists, writes the "AP" agency. It is the next step of continuous power strikes against opponents. 

Belarus's authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, launched the crackdown in August 2020 in response to mass protests following his re-election as president. The elections are considered by the opposition but also by the West as manipulated. Over 35 people have been arrested, thousands have been brutally beaten in custody, dozens of independent news organizations and rights groups have been shut down, and journalists have been jailed. 

About 500 people, including key opposition figures, have left the country since then. And authorities this year began a campaign against Belarusians who have fled the country, who are calling for tougher sanctions against Lukashenko's government. 

The Belarusian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against 257 activists seeking a seat in the Coordinating Council-in-Exile, established by opposition politicians in 2020 as an alternative parliament. They had announced online elections for 80 Council seats, which are scheduled to be held on May 25-27. 

The activists, most of whom have left the country, are accused of "plotting to overthrow the government", "requesting sanctions" and "forming an extremist group". Those arrested on these charges can face up to 12 years in prison. 

Committee spokesman Sergei Kabakovich said the "arrests, searches and seizure of property" were taking place across Belarus and came as part of a large-scale Coordinating Council investigation. 

Pavel, a former minister, told the Associated Press that the authorities are intensifying repression against Belarusians both inside the country and abroad, fearing that mass protests could break out again. 

"The Lukashenko regime is afraid of any political alternative and has started another phase of criminal persecution against all the participants of the elections for the Coordinating Council. Another attempt to scare the Belarusians, who take positions against their authorities and policies", said Pavel. 

The opposition marked Tuesday, May 21, as a day of solidarity with political prisoners in Belarus. 

According to Viasnas, the oldest and most prominent human rights group in Belarus, there are currently 3192 Belarusian prisoners and that arrests are occurring daily. 

He said that at least five political prisoners have died behind bars. 

Last week authorities raided and seized the local properties of 104 Belarusians who live abroad and are vocal critics of the government. 

Western officials last week repeated calls for Belarusian authorities to release political prisoners and end the crackdown. 

The head of the EU's foreign policy, Josep Borrell, said in a statement to the media that Lukashenko's regime is increasingly targeting those who have fled the country.