More Than 400 People Convicted In Belarus Over Postelection Protests

MINSK -- More than 400 people have been convicted so far in a brutal crackdown by authorities against pro-democracy protesters in Belarus following a disputed presidential election seven month ago.

"To date, prosecutors have sent 468 criminal cases to courts against 631 people in connection with participation in illegal mass events and protests that grossly violate public order," the Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement on March 17, adding that of those cases sent to courts, "more than 400 persons have already been convicted."

It said the suspects were accused of “violence and threats” against members of law enforcement, publicly insulting them, damaging private property, and mocking state symbols.

Belarus has witnessed daily protests since strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who claimed he won the August 9 presidential election by a landslide amid allegations of widespread fraud.

More than 30,000 people have been detained, hundreds beaten, several killed, and journalists targeted in the government’s crackdown.

Lukashenka, who has run Belarus since 1994, and top officials have been slapped with sanctions by the West, which refuses to recognize him as the legitimate leader of the former Soviet republic.

Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the exiled opposition leader who supporters say actually won the August poll, is set to testify later on March 17 at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs on the "leading" role taken by women in the democratic movement in Belarus.