President sides with law enforcement in high-profile conflicts
Last week, TUT.BY journalist Pavel Dobrovolsky and two activists were detained and beaten by law enforcement officers at the courthouse before the ‘graffiti’ case hearing. Later, based on the testimony of MIA representatives, the journalist and activists were awarded large fines. In addition, the judge issued an unexpectedly soft decision against three graffiti artists who were also fined. Meanwhile, at the board meeting of the Interior Ministry, which discussed the results of 2015 and plans and tasks for 2016, President Lukashenka did not publicly comment on the incident with the journalist and only talked about the lack of serious complaints about the work of the police. Tough action against the journalist by the Belarusian militia was unlikely sanctioned by the senior Belarusian leadership. However, amid deteriorating economic situation, the president was prompted to demonstrate loyalty to the law enforcement bodies.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.