Belarus issues apology, begins releasing hundreds of detained protesters | News | DW | 14.08.2020
Published by DW.COM
Belarusian authorities began releasing hundreds of detained demonstrators who had taken to the streets following Sunday's disputed presidential election result, with the Interior Ministry vowing to release all the protesters by Friday morning.
The release came ahead of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers later on Fridayto discuss possible sanctions against Belarusian leadership in response to its crackdown on post-election protests.
On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded the unconditional and immediate release of all detained demonstrators, according to a government spokesman.
Hundreds of relatives and friends stood outside to give food and blankets to those emerging from one detention center in Minsk during the early hours of Friday.
Footage of the released protesters in front of a detention center showed some of them had large bruises on their backs and legs.
Other released detainees claimed they had been beaten and deprived of food and water.
Belarusian Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Barsukov has denied the prisoners were abused.
A woman reacts as she is released from a Minsk detention center in the early hours of Friday.
On Thursday evening, the Interior Ministry issued an apology to bystanders who were injured during the crackdown - a move that came after intense pressure from the EU. The ministry added 1,000 detainees would be set free.
Interior Minister Yuri Karayev went on state television to apologize for the arrests, adding that police operations against mass protests resulted in accidental detentions.
On Friday, top opposition challenger, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya encouraged mayors across Belarus to organize peaceful protests against the result of the election, while urging an end to the violence.
Speaking in a YouTube video, she also asked the Belarusian people to sign a petition demanding an official investigation into voter fraud and demanding a recount.
Nearly 7,000 people have been reportedly detained since Sunday night, according to official figures, and a.t least two people have died in the violent crackdown during large-scale demonstrations over President Alexander Lukashenko's contested re-election.
The Interior Ministry on Wednesday had acknowledged that police deliberately fired on a group of protesters, wounding one.
A new round of protests began in Minsk on Friday, with as people formed human chains around the city.